Tim Ferriss: fear is your friend.

Tim Ferriss as a child [image] power squatting.

I thought I was the Incredible Hulk.

When I was 7 I went to summer camp (my parents needed the reprieve). At noon each day we’d go to the docks and jump into the water. I’d been born with lung problems so I always had issues with water. One day I decided to jump through the tube but one of the bully’s grabbed my foot and I got stuck, I thought I was going to drown. After that day, I was terrified of swimming.

My fear of swimming was a weakness and something I did not like. I’m 31 now and in August I decided to conquer this fear.

My art is deconstructing things that scare the hell out of me.

Swimming: First Principles

Here are the new rules of swimming for any of you who are scared of swimming.

Forget about kicking. The problem is hydrodynamics. See this example, he extends the right arm below his head, his entire body is underwater. The arm is etended below the head, in line with the spine, using strategic water pressure. You use small flicks to rotate hips to dive the arm into the other side. Enter the water at a 45 degree angle and propel yourself by streamlining. This is how I was able to go from 21 strokes to 11 strokes in two weeks.

The right position. Bend your arm into the water, not in a straight line.

Breathing. In freestyle, turn your body, roll and look at your recovery hand as it enters the water.

And that’s it. All you need to know.

Languages: Material vs. Method

I was terrible at languages, like many other people. All I knew was Dónde esta el baño? When I started in a new school, most of my freinds were taking Japanese so I decided to take Japanese. 6 months later I had an opportunity to go to Japan. It was my first overseas experience, my parents encouraged me to do it. I arrived in Tokyo, met my host family, was very excited.

To my host mom in Japanese, I asked to be woken up at 8 am. I used the wrong verb and inadvertantly asked: please rape me at 8 am. She was a very confused host mother.

At school, the teacher gave me a piece of paper and it looked like hyroglyphics – it was Kanji, Chinese characters used in the Japanese written language.

I asked what this was and the professor tried to explain (in Japanese) – I was very confused. But that set me on a panic driven search for the perfect language learning method. Finally I found a tablet, determined by the Ministry of Education in 1931. This became my Holy Grail, my Rosetta Stone. As soon as I focused on this material I took off and I was able to read the Asahi Shimbun 6 months later.

I ended up doing translation work at age 16 when I returned to the US.

I’ve been able to apply this to almost a dozen langugaes – someone who was terrible at languages.

It’s oftentimes not just what you do but how you do it. It’s about being effective, efficient, and doing the right things.

Now I love languages.

Ballroom Dancing: Implicit vs. Explicit

I used to be much bigger, not the build for a ballroom dancer. I found myself in Argentina in 2005. Paid 10 pesos to watch a ballroom dance class, had no intention of participating. Due to an uneven gender balance, the instructor told me to particpate.

I immediately broke out in a death sweat.

Then this gorgeous assistant instructor comes to be my partner, I didn’t know where to put my hands. I hold her and she angrily drops her arms, turns around and shouts: this guy is built like a damn mountain of muscle and he’s grabbing me like a Frenchman.

I found that encouraging. [laughter]

I bought a month’s worth of classes.

Then I signed up for a competition, to give myself a timeline for learning. I got a female instructor first because I wanted to understand the sensitivities of following. Then I took an inventory of the characteristics of different dancers who had won championships. Then I interviewed them and compared the answers.

There were external similarities and implicit commonalities.

1 – Long vs. short steps. Longer steps were much more elegant.

2 – Different types of pivots

3 – Different tempos

These were the elements that I needed to compete successfully.

I won that competition. Then went to the semi-finals. And set a world record 2 weeks later.

[shows training footage]

A strong lead matters. I have 100 hours of footage, most categorized.

I used my arch nemesis Spanish, no less, to learn tango

Fear is your friend.

The best results I’ve achieved was by asking: What’s the worst that can happen?

Take the analytic frameworks, apply them to old fears and big dreams.

When I think of what I fear now it’s simple: what my life would have been like without the educational opportunities I have had.

I’ve built half a dozen schools but I know nothing, I’m a beginner and I would love your advice.

Thank you very much.

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