Professional Development

Tim Ferriss on Ideas

Short video here.


  • “accelerated learning is important to me… [I learned] where I could exert my control, or shape my own destiny was through learning… I’ve seen just ridiculous stuff, and it doesn’t require that you have some special gift, it requires that you find a special toolkit, and all that’s related to accelerated learning” – If you’ve read any of Ferriss’ books or follow his blog you know one of his central themes is life “hacks” or “shortcuts,” e.g. leveraging the Pareto principle (20% of the effort produces 80% of the results).
  • “When I’m considering investing in a startup, or advising a startup, there are a few things that I look for. Number 1, I only invest in things that I understand, and things that I use or would use myself. This is really really really important. Anytime I step outside of that is usually when the universe kicks me in the nuts really hard, and I lose my money.” – This is a good lesson for all of us. There’s plenty of problems to solve in your own realm, don’t overreach and if you do overreach, understand the additional risk you’re assuming.
  • “I think it’s critical as an entrepreneur to scratch your own itch. It increases the odds of success, or the probability of success, and as an investor I look for people who are scratching their own itch.” – This is a great point that leads to this conclusion: there are a number of things in your realm right now that you could tackle, you just need to look for them.
  • “Other things I’ve learned through investing is team, team, team: ideas are worth nothing. Ideas are not a dime a dozen, they’re just nothing. All the good founders I know, even the bad founders, can come up with ideas all day long – it doesn’t mean anything. You have to be able to execute.” – Another key point, and I like Ferriss’ bluntness on this one. Everyone can generate ideas. Probably most people have great unique ideas. What separates successful people is action. Action also leads to failure, which is why so many people avoid it. But continued action always (?) leads to success.
  • “One of the maxims I was told once is your success will be measured in the number of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have, so I think of it as, say if an entrepreneur should say start a business based on one of their passions or if they should find the most attractive market opportunity and build a business out of that, whether they like it or not. I don’t think it’s either/or, I think you need both.” – another great point and leads to the conclusion: your idea must be real-world to be viable. If it doesn’t make sense in the real world, you need to rework your idea.
  • “I would say look at your own credit card statement. Identify where you spend an unusual percentage of your income. Where are you price insensitive? Then how old are you, what gender are you, where do you live, and design a product that has all of those things intersecting. That’s what I did with sports nutrition, and I think people can very easily do the same. – I love this point because it gives everyone a actionable starting point. Look at what you spend money on yourself, and importantly, what do you spend money on that you’re “price insensitive” about? I.e. what do you spend money on that price is less of an issue or even not an issue at all. If you feel that way, it’s likely other people do as well.

I agree with Ferriss’ conclusion that ideas are of no value in the marketplace. The economy requires real tangible things. Of course real tangible things always start as ideas. The key is action to make those ideas into reality.

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