This Is the Best Advice Tim Ferriss Has Ever Received

We can apply some of the same success principles as Ferriss. Tim Ferriss

I had the opportunity to interview Tim Ferriss recently.

During the course of our conversation, he told me about the best advice he has ever received — advice he got as a teenager that has guided his life and career to this day:

“You are the average of the five people you associate with most.”

Since those teenage years, Ferriss has heeded this advice and gone on to amass four #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books (including The 4-Hour Workweek and his most recent, Tools of Titans), over 150 million downloads of his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show, as well as highly-successful early-stage investments in companies like Uber, Facebook, and Alibaba.

Tim explained to me that carefully selecting his inner circle — both personally and professionally — has been essential to his success. “Choosing very carefully the people I surround myself with, or the people I work collaboratively with on projects, has been extremely critical,” says Ferriss.

It should therefore come as no surprise that Tim has partnered with Vince Vaughn for his latest venture — a new TV series called Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss, produced by Vaughn’s Wild West Productions.

The series will feature Tim in front of a live audience, interviewing world-class performers and business leaders (such as illusionist David Blaine and ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen) about how they have overcome fears and crafted unique paths to success.

As interesting as this new series sounds, I was equally curious to understand what specifically led to Ferriss taking on a large new commitment. As fans of Ferriss know, he fiercely protects his time and says no to the vast majority of opportunities that come his way (and advises his readers and listeners to do the same). It turns out this opportunity was different — in large part because of who was involved, and how they engaged with him.

Ferriss was approached by Vaughn (a fan of Tim’s podcast) and AT&T exec Chris Long (the series airs on AT&T’s AUDIENCE Network) — both of whom had seen Tim’s TED talk on overcoming fear. Vaughn and Long explained that they were very familiar with Tim’s work, detailed what specifically they liked about it, and then asked him what he would like to do in television.

This means they came in prepared and framed up an opportunity in a way that would be relevant and beneficial for Tim. “It was a collaboration right from the outset, including someone I have been a fan of for a very long time,” says Ferriss.

At this stage in his career, not only does Tim carefully scrutinize who he works with, but he also prioritizes genuine, mutually beneficial collaborations. In this case, of course Ferriss is offering his time, talent, and name recognition, but he is also receiving significant value in return. He told me the entire series was filmed in a span of only two weeks, perfectly suiting Tim’s schedule (he famously likes to ‘batch’ activities), and enabled him to grow professionally by applying his podcast interviewing skills to a new visual medium, and in front of a live audience.

Trying new things in this manner also perfectly fits with how Tim defines himself. “I very genuinely view myself as a professional Dilettante of sorts,” he explains. He has literally built his identity around being a professional amateur and human guinea pig.

So what does this mean for the rest of us?

Of course we can’t all rub shoulders with Vince Vaughn and David Blaine, or fully dictate the terms of our work and lives.

But we can apply some of the same success principles as Ferriss. For example:

  • Surround yourself and collaborate with the right people who truly value you
  • Ensure each new commitment helps you grow personally or professionally
  • Select new opportunities that align with your self-identity or personal mission
  • Be mindful of your time commitment (and schedule disruption) for new ventures

Of course Tim is fortunate to now be in a position to take on only the most ideal projects. But it is clear that following this approach is what helped get him here in the first place.

Above all, remember that you are the average of the five people that you associate with most.

Make sure to choose those relationships wisely.

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“Fear{less} With Tim Ferriss” premieres May 30 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on AT&T AUDIENCE Network available on DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and U-verse. Learn more at Tim.blog/fearless.

Andrew Merle writes about living well, including good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Subscribe to his e-mail list at andrewmerle.com and follow him on Twitter.