Tim Ferriss lives his life according to an ancient Greek quote that helps him prepare for the worst

Tim Ferriss places more value on training than planning.

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Tim Ferriss places more value on training than planning.
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Andrew “Drew” Kelly

  • Tim Ferriss is a bestselling author and star podcast host.
  • His favorite quote is attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus.
  • It has inspired him to value intense preparation over optimism or planning.

Tim Ferriss had given a TED Talk and countless presentations in front of an audience ahead of his TED Talk in April, but he was still terrified.

It would be the first time he would speak publicly about living with bipolar depression, including a time in college when he considered suicide. He had previously received messages thanking him for his blog post on the subject – for his candor and encouragement to remove stigma from mental health issues – and so he decided it would be important to do the talk.

For inspiration, he followed the advice from one of his favorite quotes, attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.

In a recent interview with Ferriss about his career and new book “Tribe of Mentors” for Business Insider’s podcast “Success! How I Did It,” he told us that it’s a quote that’s been guiding him.

Listen to the full episode here, or listen later with the buttons below:

“It’s more than put the work in,” he said. “It’s practice and rehearse the skills … that you want to have as a reliable tool when the sh–‘s hitting the fan, or when the stakes are high, or when your heartbeat is 180 beats per minute. You have to train for that. It’s like a sport. You can’t read a book on soccer and then go to the World Cup.”

When we begin something we prepared for, whether that’s something like a presentation or an athletic event, our expectations often fall apart quickly, and when the unexpected happens, we can only follow what we’ve already ingrained into ourselves.

For Ferriss’ TED Talk, he didn’t will himself into doing it through positive thinking; he practiced it for several weeks, trying sessions with different stressors that could mimic the conditions of the day he gave it for real. This included giving the presentation to rooms of complete strangers at startups that had agreed to host him, increasing his heart rate with caffeine to practice staying focused, and giving the presentation after just four hours of sleep.

“And that’s the only reason I went into it confident,” he said.

Last year Ferriss told us that prioritizing rigorous training doesn’t mean you should set unambitious goals. “I would say that you can have ‘unrealistic’ goals – according to other people – as long as they are specific, measurable, and you have timelines,” he said.