(An under 5-minute read.) Pick up Tim’s new book here. Read part two, “17 Lessons on Success from ‘Tools of Titans’ by Tim Ferriss” here

  1. I believe you shouldn’t start a business unless people are asking you to. – Derek Sivers
  2. It Doesn’t Always Have to Be Hard “I have come to learn that part of the business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem. And actually, in fact, part of doing strategy is to solve the easiest problem, so part of the reason why you work on software and bits is that atoms [physical products] are actually very difficult.” TF: The bolded lines are key elements that I’m prone to under-examining. In doing an 80/20 analysis of your activities (simply put: determining which 20% of activities/tasks produce 80% of the results you want), you typically end up with a short list. Make “easy” your next criterion. Which of these highest-value activities is the easiest for me to do? You can build an entire career on 80/20 analysis and asking this question. – Reid Hoffman
  3. “The blog post I point people to the most is called ‘First, Ten,’ and it is a simple theory of marketing that says: tell ten people, show ten people, share it with ten people; ten people who already trust you and already like you. If they don’t tell anybody else, it’s not that good and you should start over. If they do tell other people, you’re on your way.” – Seth Godin
  4. Speed as a Principle “We agreed I was going to make judgment calls on a range of issues on his behalf without checking with him. He told me, ‘In order to move fast, I expect you’ll make some foot faults. I’m okay with an error rate of 10 to 20%—times when I would have made a different decision in a given situation—if it means you can move fast.’ I felt empowered to make decisions with this ratio in mind, and it was incredibly liberating.” – Reid Hoffman
  5. This is counter to classic marketing thinking, which is brand oriented: How do I get people to prefer my brand? Forget the brand. Think categories. Prospects are on the defensive when it comes to brands. Everyone talks about why their brand is better. But prospects have an open mind when it comes to categories. Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better. When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category. In essence, you have no competition. DEC told its prospects why they ought to buy a minicomputer, not a DEC minicomputer. In the early days, Hertz sold rent-a-car service. Coca-Cola sold refreshment. Marketing programs of both companies were more effective back then.
  6. Are You J. Crew? “We send millions of emails a month with multiple-million [combinatorial variants] of email funnels, and we generate roughly 99% of our revenue through email. “[My emails] look like plain emails. . . . I am not J. Crew. J. Crew is selling a brand, so their emails have to be beautiful. My emails look like I am writing to you because I want to be your friend . . . at scale. That is why my emails appear to be really simple. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of stuff going on, but they appear . . . like I just jotted you a note.” TF: One of the reasons I put off using email newsletters for years was perceived complexity. I didn’t want to have to craft beautiful templates and ship out gorgeous, magazine-worthy missives. Ramit convinced me to send plain-text email for my 5-Bullet Friday newsletter, which became one of the most powerful parts of my business within 6 months. – Ramit Sethi
  7. 1,000 True Fans “[‘1,000 True Fans’ by Kevin Kelly] was one of the seminal articles that inspired me to really build amazing material, rather than just recycling what else was out there. I knew that if I had 1,000 true fans, then not only would I be able to live doing the things I wanted, but I would be able to turn that into 2,000, 5,000, 10,000—and that is exactly what happened. “In terms of getting my first 1,000 true fans, you can look at my posts. They tend to be very, very long [and definitive]. In some cases, 15, 20, 25 pages long. . . . If your material is good, if it is engaging, there is almost no maximum you can write. . . . My point is not ‘write longer.’ It is ‘do not worry about space.’ “Second, I cannot recommend guest posting enough. I did one for you [‘The Psychology of Automation’]—that probably took me 20 to 25 hours to write. It was very detailed. It included video, all kinds of stuff, and to this day a lot of the people I meet, I ask, ‘How did you hear about me?’ and they say, ‘Oh, through Tim Ferriss.’” – Ramit Sethi
  8. “If you go out there and start making noise and making sales, people will find you. Sales cure all. You can talk about how great your business plan is and how well you are going to do. You can make up your own opinions, but you cannot make up your own facts. Sales cure all.” – Daymond John
  9. Aim Narrow, Own Your Own Category The following is one of my favorite excerpts from The Art of Asking, which I highlighted because it beautifully showcases the “1,000 True Fans” philosophy I’m so fond of (page 292): Dita Von Teese, a star in the contemporary burlesque scene, once recounted something she’d learned in her early days stripping in L.A. Her colleagues—bleach-blonde dancers with fake tans, Brazilian wax jobs, and neon bikinis—would strip bare naked for an audience of 50 guys in the club and be tipped a dollar by each guy. Dita would take the stage wearing satin gloves, a corset, and a tutu, and do a sultry striptease down to her underwear, confounding the crowd. And then, though 49 guys would ignore her, one would tip her fifty dollars. That man, Dita said, was her audience. – Amanda Palmer
  10. “General fame is overrated. You want to be famous to 2,000 to 3,000 people you handpick.” I’m paraphrasing, but the gist is that you don’t need or want mainstream fame. It brings more liabilities than benefits. However, if you’re known and respected by 2–3K high-caliber people (e.g., the live TED audience), you can do anything and everything you want in life. It provides maximal upside and minimal downside. – Eric Weinstein
  11. “You get paid for being right first, and to be first, you can’t wait for consensus.” – Naval Ravikant

2 thoughts on “11 Lessons about Business from “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss

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