Photo credit: Graham Mattock
Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur, investor and 3 times New York Times bestselling author, has had by far the most significant influence on the way that I think, acquire new skills and view the world. I have learnt more in the last few years from reading his books and listening to his podcast, than I did during my entire formal education. Tim has a unique ability to deconstruct complex topics and explain the simplest and most effective way to accomplish extraordinary things.
1. Optimise Your Body
In an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show with hedge fund experts Mark Hart and Raoul Pal, Tim uses the metaphor of a racing car to explain why the body is the focus of so much of his work:
“The car itself, the vehicle, is the physical body upon which everything is predicated. People tend to have this Cartesian separation of mind and body but at the end of the day you have certain levels of neurotransmitters that are produced at a certain rate, depleted at a certain rate, and that is the rate-limiting step in your mental performance. So if you want to have better levels of working memory, sustained attention and so on, you can optimise those by optimising the car, ie. the body. You can use exercise to improve the production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Growth Factor and all these things that are very very interesting.”
This core premise, summed up by the aphorism, “a sound mind in a sound body”, is the foundation on which Yoga 15 is built.
Yoga is a great tool, as part of a well-formulated training program, for improving health in both body and mind. With consistent practice, you will increase strength, suppleness, range of motion, stamina, endurance, power, agility, balance, body awareness, breath efficiency, physical fitness and coordination, which ultimately enhances focus, concentration, calm and clarity. Both the physical and the mental skills that are necessary to be a successful athlete.
2. Minimum Effective Dose
“The minimum effective dose (MED) is defined simply: the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome. Anything beyond the MED is wasteful.” The 4-Hour Body
Yoga classes typically last 60-90 minutes which is a major barrier to entry for busy people leading demanding, high-pressure lifestyles. In the process of designing Yoga 15, I deconstructed a typical class into discrete skills to reduce the length of time needed for each workout. After extensive experimentation, I discovered that the minimum possible length – allowing for warm-up, workout and cool-down/meditation – is 15 minutes.
Therefore, the MED in this case is:
- one skill (balance, flexibility, mobility, strength or relaxation)
- every day
- for 15 minutes
This has the advantage of being not only more effective from a physiological perceptive but is also much easier to stick to than committing to a long, expensive, weekly class far from home.
As Tim says:
“The decent method you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.” The 4-Hour Body
By deconstructing the conventional format of a yoga class, I devised a simple method that:
- Can easily be incorporated into a busy schedule.
- Accelerates the learning process.
- Produces the same or greater benefits as taking long but sporadic classes.
3. 80/20 Principle
The “80/20 Principle” or “Pareto’s Law” first appears in The 4-Hour Workweek and is a recurring theme throughout all of Tim’s work.
The “80/20 Principle” states that 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs and that by identifying the correct inputs, you can achieve the greatest results with the smallest amount of effort.
Tim applies this principle to language learning:
“To be perceived as fluent in conversational Spanish…you need an active vocabulary of approximately 2500 high-frequency words [out of] the estimated 100,000 words in the Spanish language.” The 4-Hour Body
Or, you only need to learn 20% of the language to achieve 80% fluency.
I have applied this principle to Yoga 15 in terms of time, cost and effort.
It is possible to achieve a high level of yoga mastery and gain the majority of the benefits:
- at a fraction of the cost
- in only 15 minutes a day
- without having to go to a studio or commit to a membership
- and by learning only the most high value poses
4. “Everything popular is wrong.” Oscar Wilde
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain
When facing a problem or tackling a new skill, Tim poses the following questions:
- What are the untested assumptions?
- What do we all believe is true?
- What if the opposite were true?
Yoga 15 is fairly unconventional. When I first started going to classes 5 years ago, I found it difficult to find one that consistently gave me the benefits I was looking for. I struggled with the length, style, music and absence of a clear structure.
I decided to design a method specifically for athletes and high performers who recognise that yoga significantly boosts their physical and mental performance but are looking for the most effective, distilled, simplified, "4-Hour" version.
In contrary to many mainstream classes, the 15 workouts are:
- exclusively focussed on physical and mental performance (as opposed to spiritual enlightenment)
- systematically structured
- designed to follow a clear progression
- part of a comprehensive program
- accessible wherever you are
5. Habit Formation and Engineering Compliance
“We break commitments to ourselves with embarrassing regularity.” The 4-Hour Body
The simplest way to successfully establish a yoga habit is to be consistent with the time and place that you choose to practice. Consistency is a crucial component of Tim’s hugely popular and effective Slow-Carb Diet:
Rule #2 “Eat the same few meals and over again.”
I outline my strategy for achieving this in more detail in the post How To Create A Consistent Yoga Habit.
Tim teaches that routines and systems are more effective when trying to create a new habit than relying solely on self-discipline, which he believes is overrated. If you establish routines, your actions become automatic and you don’t have to deplete your limited supply of willpower every time you are faced with a decision.
“Don’t strive for variation and thus increase option consideration when it’s not needed. Routine enables innovation where it’s most valuable.” The Tim Ferriss Show
The beauty of 15-minute workouts is that you can fit them into your current routine without having to make any radical changes to your schedule.
“You need immediate results that compel you to continue.” The Choice-Minimal Lifestyle
Tim asserts that early wins are critical for creating habit and skill acquisition momentum. For athletes and elite performers beaten up by intense exercise and demanding lifestyles, yoga feels amazing and offers immediate relief from pain and stiffness. This generates a positive feedback loop which makes it easier to stay committed to your new habit.
Incentives and Accountability
In The 4-Hour Body, Tim offers 2 key strategies for achieving a goal:
- Create incentives – I’ve integrated this tactic into the app by setting up a points, medals and challenges structure for motivation.
- Assign accountability – This is the rationale behind the option to automatically share your progress with friends on social media.
I recommend you use these tools to help you maintain motivation and stick to your yoga habit.
“Track or you will fail.”
“What gets measured gets managed.” Peter Drucker
Tracking your progress is crucial to achieving your goals. It brings awareness to your new habit, creates a positive feedback loop and is profoundly motivating.
The app automatically tracks your progress so you can see visually how far you have come and how close you are to reaching your goals.
Tim practices Transcendental Meditation for 20 minutes twice every day. He says he finds that it gives him calm and clarity, enables him to be more effective and allows him to be his analytical rather than emotional self when challenging situations come up. He claims when he is consistently meditating, he is able to deal with things in a much more relaxed, effective way.
I personally find meditation to be one of my most impactful daily rituals. It gives me clarity of thought, slows me down so that I am not always rushing from task to task or idea to idea, and I’m pretty sure it makes me a nicer person.
In Yoga 15, each of the workouts ends with a mini body scan meditation and there are longer guided meditations in the Relaxation series. This style of body-focussed meditation is particularly suitable for people like me that find it hard to sit still and focus on their breath for more than a few minutes.
In one podcast, Tim mentioned that due to poor health, he had been focussing more on mobility than strength training during his workouts. He described his daily calisthenics and breathing routine as “yoga without the mystical woo-woo stuff”.
I couldn’t have described Yoga 15 better myself!
Thank you Tim. You're a constant inspiration.