The Tim Ferriss Show, a podcast committed to “deconstructing world-class performers,” is one of the most popular podcasts of all-time, and for those who don’t have the time or desire to listen through 200+ episodes (at the time of this review), Tim Ferriss put together Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.
It’s a sprawling, nearly 700-page manual on life optimization: tips and advice from more than 100 guests on his podcast who give their takes on success, performance and life in general.
It’s an ambitious book, and for those familiar with Ferriss and his style of writing and podcasting, Tools of Titans will feel like a welcome companion to his other books, including The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s packed with nuggets of insight, and though it acts essentially as a book of notes and highlights from the podcast, it has a completed, comfortable feel.
Structure of the Book
Tools is broken up into three main parts – Healthy, Wealthy and Wise – and each section contains brief profiles and stories from podcast guests, as well as a handful of chapters written by Ferriss or other authors.
In Ferriss’ words, the book is a “compendium of recipes for high-performance” that he intially compiled for his own use. “Now, when I’m feeling stuck, trapped, desperate, angry, conflicted, or simply unclear, the first thing I do is flip through these pages with a strong cup of coffee in hand,” he writes. And in typical “scratch your own itch” fashion, that’s often the best way to make something of value for others.
It’s easy to see the average reader doing the same. In fact, Tools of Titans might be most useful as a reference book of sorts, something to refer to for a quick dose of inspiration or practical strategy when things feel off-balanced. Ferriss recommends reading the book in a way that’s fun – focusing on what you like, skipping what you don’t and revisiting sections you missed the first time around for more ideas.
Within an hour I had a good chunk of the book highlighted, and it doesn’t take long to see why this book can be so useful to so many people. In fact, you almost need to slow down and really focus on one concept at a time in order to internalize the advice given, otherwise, it can get lost in the shuffle. With that approach, I’ve read a few sections here and there every night and found it easier to fully concentrate on the topics at hand.
Learning Tools for Life
The people who contributed to Tools of Titans include Tony Robbins, Stephen J. Dubner, Malcolm Gladwell, Laird Hamilton, Rick Rubin, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others. There are guests from all industries, backgrounds and lifestyles, so there’s a solid mix of variety in the tools you can learn. There’s a lot of humor and creative inspiration that won’t make Tools feel like a stiff business manual.
The non-profile chapters are interesting, and Ferriss explains that going into often embarrassing, tough personal areas of life is the key to really creating and sharing something memorable (there’s a standout chapter on suicide, for example). Overall, it’s easy to get an idea of how each performer operates, at least at a high level, and I found that one of the most valuable aspects of the books is in identifying which guests you’d like to further research.
Several times, I would read a chapter and when finished, tune into that guest’s podcast episode to learn more. In this way, I’d imagine Tools of Titans will be a cliffnotes-type tool that will introduce many new readers to old podcast episodes. I found Scott Adam’s podcast to be extremely interesting, and it was one that I had previously skipped over many times while scrolling through the podcast’s feed.
In many chapters, the guest also recommends – or Tim notes on the side – which books that person gifts to others the most. I found this extremely helpful and highlighted many of the titles for future book selections.
What Others are Saying
Emma Jacobs at Financial Times writes that for non-devotees of Ferriss, Tools of Titans is “a bit ‘meh’ — even though ‘meh’ is a very un-Ferriss concept, the anti-Ferriss if you like.” She points out that about 10 percent of the guests are female, so for this reason found the book to be “Silicon Valley machismo.”
“It is a book, you buy again, and again, gifting it to the right people you care about. I just bought over 30 copies on Amazon to give away to the people I care about most,” writes former Navy SEAL, and combat veteran Brandon Webb.
Tools of Titans has been received extremely well among reviewers and readers, with more than 85% of its Amazon reviews being 5 stars at the time of this article. It has similar ratings on Goodreads, and in general readers find that it aligns well with Ferriss’ idea that the book is a collection of recipes for success.
Who’s it best for? Fans of Ferriss, or those inspired by leaders, public figures and success stories, will find Tools of Titans a welcome addition to your library. It may be easiest to read bit-by-bit to avoid being overwhelmed by so much advice at once. But for those who find the best way to pace through the book, there’s a lifetime’s worth of sage advice worth considering.