The 4-Hour TV Star? Tim Ferriss On Going Primetime + Creating “F*cking Amazing” Products

November 29, 2013

10:00 am

In the six+ years since publishing The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss’s popularity has exploded.  Not only has 4HWW spent more than four hours years on the New York Times Best Seller list, but he has since gone onto write two more NY Times Best Sellers: The 4-Hour Body, and more recently, The 4-Hour Chef.  Along the way, Ferriss has continued to grow his legend through a variety of channels: public speaking (e.g. TED talk), his blog (one the top 5,000 websites in the world), high profile interviews (Joe Rogan Experience Podcast – NSFW), random how-to videos (this how-to peel a hard boiled egg video has +4.5M views) and even an intermittent video podcast with Revision3 founder, Kevin Rose.

Now the self-proclaimed human guinea pig is taking his advanced deconstruction antics to primetime television in a series appropriately called, “The Tim Ferriss Experiment”.  The show will air at 8pm on HLN (formerly CNN Headline News).  You can peep the trailer below and watch the first full episode (for free) here.

Tech Cocktail catches up with Ferriss to learn more of his new show, skills he hasn’t been able to hack, his favorite startup, and how to execute a big product launch.  ALSO – at the bottom of the post you can enter to win an upwave “swag bag”, filled with items to help you “live life on the up”.

Tech Cocktail:  Why television?

Tim Ferriss: First off, it’s simply fun. I wanted to do something visual with a great team, instead of sitting in isolation writing another book. Why not capture these crazy experiments?

Second: at least for the next 1-3 years, broadcast TV is the Archimedes lever for impacting the mainstream. TV occupies a unique mind space, just like books, as compared to online video and blogs, respectively.

The Tim Ferriss Experiment (TFX) allows me to hit new audiences and — hopefully — accelerate everything else I’m doing, like education reform and obesity research (nusi.org).

And no matter what, longer-form visual storytelling (30 min, 60 min) isn’t going anywhere. Distribution will change, but the hero’s journey will not. For the digital natives, TFX will be on iTunes, etc. I’m not neglecting my base.

TV is also a warm-up for other things, like feature films.

Give us one highlight moment we should look forward to during the upcoming season of The Tim Ferriss Experiment.

Me trying to become a ninja by learning parkour at age 36 and 180 pounds!

It’s nuts–a totally insane, self-destructive idea. On one hand, you’ll get to see me overcome age and genetics with deconstruction, and — on the other hand — you’ll also get to see me fail spectacularly… and repeatedly. I want this show to make people say: “Well, shit. I think I could do that.” The show is about the toolkit, not how awesome I am. You’ll see the nervous breakdowns, anxiety attacks, self-doubt, and much more. It’s part of being human. The show is about maximizing your potential with the same toolkits I use to overcome my own weaknesses.

Have there been any skills you haven’t been able to “hack”?

Romantic relationships are a slippery one. I get requests for “The 4-Hour Parent” all the time, but I need to figure out girlfriends first. My relationships are great, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on settling down. Not 100% sold on the marriage as legal construct thing.

All that said, if you want to see me look like a stuttering 12-year old, the Dating episode of “The Tim Ferriss Experiment” will offer plenty of scenes. Good lord. It made me relive all my high school insecurities and then some.

The 4-Hour Workweek is now more than six years old. The digital landscape has changed a lot since then. Are any of the principles or tactics dated? 

Some of the URLs might need updating, but it all works. The principles are mostly timeless. Negotiation, good self-tracking, travel hacks, understanding PR, “fear-setting”–all perennial. With newer tech, it’s never been easier to be location independent and live like a king for next-to-nothing. I think that’s partially why The 4-Hour Workweek is still a bestseller. The word of mouth is carrying it. I don’t do any outbound PR for it at all.

You’ve talked about teaching being your life’s calling. Is The Tim Ferriss Experiment more education or entertainment? Are there any future plans for educating your followers?

It’s no different from, say, The 4-Hour Body. I’m using stories and action (entertainment) as a Trojan horse for education. With the crew I’m working with (ZPZ, who do all of Bourdain’s stuff), it’s just much easier to get white-knuckle engagement vs. on the written page. They’re incredible. So far, the shows have turned out super sick, in the best way possible. To your second question, I just launched a book club to extend my teaching. I never stop trying to teach my followers by sharing my experiences.

You’re notoriously transparent with all of your business and marketing strategies. Not only do you achieve your very lofty goals, but you break down exactly how you did it. Are there any tactics or shortcuts that are too great of a competitive advantage to share?

I really haven’t found any. For two reasons.

First, if you only have one good idea, you’re probably roadkill in the long-term, no matter what; and if you can repeatedly brainstorm new good ideas, you always have an advantage.

Second, ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what counts. I’ve written extensively about how I launch my books — down to the tiniest detail — and authors still don’t execute the plan I lay out. As they say about marathons: at mile 20, you’re half done. It’s the last 5-10% of effort that determines whether a product is “pretty good” or “fucking amazing.” Very few people are willing to push to the breaking point and do the last 5-10%.

If I’m resting and recovering, I’m 100% off. 4 weeks in Indonesia with no computers at all, for instance. But if I’m ON, I’m 100% on, and I live in the last 5-10%. This creates all sorts of tension, which is why I’m considered a “problem author” and butt heads almost everywhere. I’m a pain in the ass, UNLESS I’m with people who share the same belief system, then we’re BFFs.

Few people have mastered the skill of a product launch like you. What’s your advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to make a lot of noise around their own product launch?

Read “12 Lessons Learned Marketing The 4-Hour Body,” as well as “From Local TV to Dr. Oz” and “Hacking Kickstarter.” All the details you need.

What one startup that you’re not currently involved with most excites you?

Probably Scanadu, the real-world Star Trek tricorder. I’m getting tired of derivative apps and all the trivial shit that gets funded. I wish more founders would try and think like Elon Musk. We’d all be better off.

Who is the most underrated entrepreneur in your book (figuratively speaking, of course)? Why?

The oldies that get forgotten. The polymaths like Tesla or Alfred Lee Loomis. There are tons of them. I don’t judge entrepreneurs by their revenue alone; I judge them by how bold they are, how big their ideas are.

Other than The Tim Ferriss Experiment, what future projects can we look forward to?

For many reasons, the one I’m most excited about currently is the Tim Ferriss book club. It will evolve over the next few months, and the final form might surprise people. Keep an eye out 🙂

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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