When 20 Percent is Enough: Talking The Tim Ferriss Experiment

The Tim Ferriss Experiment (HLN)

The Tim Ferriss Experiment (upwave/HLN)

Even those out there who are disinclined to read self-help literature might find something worthwhile in The Tim Ferriss Experiment, precisely because it’s not The 4-Hour Workweek or the sequels it spawned. The new half-hour show on upwave on HLN (Sundays at 8 pm EST) is as much about content as it is about methodology. So for every week Mr. Ferriss brings his credo to a new undertaking, the focus is as much on the subject as how fast the author can learn it.

The pilot episode of the series has Mr. Ferriss working out how to play the drums during a live rendition of Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded,” on-stage during a live stadium show with the band. Though he applies his “80-20 Rule” methodology–finding the 20 percent of work to focus on that will yield 80 percent of the results–to learning how to both play the drums and the song in under a week, he admitted during a live screening with The New York Observer that it’s not always a case of mind over matter.

“The 80-20 rule doesn’t preclude putting in a lot of time, it just says where you should put the time,” Mr. Ferriss said. “The 80-20 is really used to determine where you get your highest per-hour yield, and then the number of hours you put in is sort of up to you.”

In the case of playing the drums, this means approaching the problem from a new direction, with help from the legendary Police drummer Stewart Copeland. (Hint: It turns out that the game isn’t learning how to play the drums and then memorizing the song, but the other way around.)

But is there anything that can’t be taught with the 80-20 Rule? Mr. Ferriss–who looks like the buffer brother of Damian Lewis on this season of Homeland–claims that while “some topics are harder to break down than others,” “you can apply this type of deconstruction to just about anything, certainly anything I’ve tried in the series.” For instance: dating.

“It’s like, how do you break down those metrics?” Mr. Ferriss asked. “But you can. And I’m sure it will be extremely humiliating on national television.” This, obviously, will be the episode with Mr. Ferriss’s buddy, Neil Strauss, author of The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society Of Pickup Artists.

“You can measure success in how many approaches you complete, how many you do that break the 20-second barrier,” Mr. Ferriss explained. “You can take online dating and find out what photographs would be the most effective. Most people go set up an account and they have no idea what photo would be the most attractive to the person they’re trying to attract. But you can take five photos, throw them all into HotOrNot.com, and people will certainly tell you which are the most attractive.”

Still, Mr. Ferriss doesn’t shy away from when his Rule doesn’t work, such as in upcoming episode about Parkour in which he gets badly hurt. (“My arm was totally black,” was all he’d reveal, though the pilot episode gives a little more away by showing him in a compression sleeve.)

“What’s really important when tackling anything with a physical component is separating out the attributes from the skills. So when you’re doing power-lifting, or Parkour, there are certain physical adaptations that just cannot take place in a week. So if you try something that depends on that, you’ll snap a tendon.”

If that’s not a Viewer Discretion Advised enough, he added:

“It’s like saying you’re going to Kong vault from one side of the table to the other–you can do it technically, yes: but if you mess up, your leg explodes.”