Tools of Titans 52 Week Challenge: Introduction and January Review

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It is safe to say that the writing of Tim Ferriss has had a major positive impact on my life.
After reading The 4-Hour Workweek, I was inspired to book my dream trip to Nepal to do a 12-day trek through the Himalayan mountains to Mount Everest Base Camp.

After reading The 4-Hour Workweek, I was inspired to book my dream trip to Nepal to do a 12-day trek through the Himalayan mountains to Mount Everest Base Camp (see below for an image of the peak of Mount Everest towering above my head)


Near the end of 2016, I entered a New York Real TV giveaway contest for a free signed copy of the newest Tim Ferriss book, Tools of Titans. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I found out from Olive, founder and host of New York Real, that I was the winner of the contest!

To ensure I get even more value out of Tools of Titans than previous Tim Ferriss books, I made a commitment to test out 52 things from the book in the 52 weeks of 2017.


What I want to accomplish by doing this 52-week challenge:

a) Get into the habit of trying new things and getting outside my comfort zone on a regular basis.

b) Identify the tools, tactics, and routines that i) have the largest positive impact on my quality of life, and ii) can be sustainably integrated into my daily life.

To hold myself accountable, I will write a blog post at the end of each month of 2017, outlining my progress for that month. It is my hope that by tracking my progress with blog posts I will have an opportunity to connect with those of you who are also working through the book and hear your key takeaways from the book so far.

Overview of the Challenge

Tools of Titans is a 707-page mammoth book consisting of the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers, including neuroscientist Sam Harris, retired navy SEAL Jocko Willink, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and over 100 others.

The book is split into 3 sections — healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Since some items from the book can be tested in a single day and others will take several weeks, I decided that the most efficient way to test out 52 things in 2017 would be to split up the 52 challenges into 12 larger monthly challenges.

Each month I will try a minimum of 4 new things from the book, adding in a 5th some months to meet my target of 52 challenges for the year.

For each month of 2017, I will focus exclusively on one section of the book (healthy, wealthy, or wise), and will rotate between sections each month.


End of January Review (Challenges 1–4, from Health Section)

Challenge 1: Wishing for Random People to be Happy

This challenge was the easiest, and also the most powerful! It is a simple 10-second exercise, repeated once each hour throughout the day for 8 hours, for a daily total of 80 seconds.

Each hour, randomly identify 2 people walking past your office at work or wherever you happen to be at the time, and for 10 seconds think “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy”.

In the image below, Tim Ferriss explains how he guides an audience through the Wishing for Random People to be Happy exercise:


I did this daily exercise 3 times over a 2 week period and was blown away by how big of a positive impact doing the exercise had on my mood throughout the day, and for a time investment of only about 4 minutes total between all 3 days!

In the past, I’ve done some related guided loving-kindness meditations, such as a meditation by the psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brock (you can listen to her appearance on The Tim Ferriss Show here). The loving-kindness meditations typically involve closing your eyes for about 20 minutes and mentally sending goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others. Although I have found the meditations to be incredibly powerful, what really takes the Wishing for Random People to be Happy exercise to the next level for me is the ease at which it can be integrated in real time into my daily life to cultivate the positive emotions of the loving-kindness meditations as I go about my day.

Wishing for Random People to be Happy exercise to the next level for me is the ease at which it can be integrated in real time into my daily life to cultivate the positive emotions of the loving-kindness meditations as I go about my day.
I am definitely going to keep doing the Wishing for Random People to be Happy exercise in the coming weeks and months, and would highly recommend trying it out for yourself!

Challenge 2: Wim “The Iceman” Hof’s Breathing Technique

Wim Hof is best known for his ability to endure the extreme cold for long periods of time. He holds more than 20 world records and has completed some of the most incredible feats imaginable, including climbing past the “death zone” of Mount Everest wearing only shorts and shoes, completing a full marathon above the Arctic Circle in shorts, and remaining in an ice bath for nearly 2 hours.

I’ve been inspired and fascinated by Wim ever since watching Vice’s documentary called Inside the Superhuman World of the Iceman.

The Wim Hof Method combines cold exposure with breathing techniques and physical exercises. Here is how the method is described on Wim’s website:
The Wim Hof Method is a method that combines specific breathing techniques, cold exposure and mindset techniques, coupled with physical exercises. It has been developed over the sum of thirty years by Wim Hof, who has taught and developed these in nature. It’s a natural method to improve health and well-being.

Wim claims that his method provides benefits including increased energy, better sleep, heightened focus, improved sports performance, and reduced stress.
In my present experiment, I will specifically be trying out Wim’s breathing technique to see if it has an impact on the number of push-ups I can do and how long I can hold my breath.

I’m particularly interested to find out if his method enables me to hold my breath longer because I’ve heard reports of the breathing technique making it possible for people to hold their breath for a significantly increased amount of time, apparently because the technique expels carbon dioxide from a person’s system and bombards the system with oxygen.

I plan to use these experiments as a brief introduction to Wim’s method so I can decide whether or not I want to purchase his online training program sometime this year.

In the image below, Tim Ferriss explains how to do the push-up experiment (further down in the article I’ve included a video showing how to do the breathing technique):


Doing the push-up challenge, I found that after doing the breathing exercise there was actually no increase in the number of push-ups I was able to do. I did, in fact, feel mildly lightheaded with some light tingling in my extremities, as mentioned in Tim’s explanation in the above image. Near the end of doing the breathing exercise, I experienced a brief wave of euphoria wash over me for a few moments.

On to the holding my breath challenge. I decided to follow London Real host Brian Rose’s video, in which he guides us through the breathing technique (shown below). I did this challenge twice- the first time following exactly what he does in the video without timing myself, and the second time (about 1 hour later) doing the 25 breaths and then simply exhaling, starting a timer, and holding my breath as long as possible.

Before doing Wim’s breathing technique I was able to hold my breath for 40 seconds. After doing the technique I was able to hold my breath for 60 seconds.

While doing the breathing technique I experienced a little lightheadedness, tingling in chest and limbs, and a sense of warmth.

There is a fairly good chance I could have held my breath quite a bit longer still after doing Wim’s breathing technique if I had really pushed it or had done multiple rounds of the breathing technique just prior to holding my breath.

After trying Wim’s breathing technique I am even more intrigued by the Wim Hof Method than I was before. I am especially excited about Wim’s cold exposure challenges, so look forward to experimenting with that in the coming months and then possibly purchasing his full online program.

Challenge 3: Asking “What Would Make Today Great?”

Over the past two years, I have been tinkering with various morning routines, trying to find the best way to start my mornings off right. Presently the most important components of my morning routine are 15–20 minutes of Vipassana meditation, affirmations, reflecting on 1 page of The Daily Stoic, and reminding myself of 1 thing I’m grateful for (using the stoic practice of negative visualization).

For this challenge I decided to try out a component of The 5-Minute Journal, integrating it into my morning routine for 2 weeks. In The 5-Minute Journal, a question to be answered each morning is “what would make today great?”.

Since I have asked myself similar questions while doing morning journaling in the past, I decided to make a slight modification to the question, and ask myself “what action would make today great”. I made this slight modification because in the past when I asked myself the original question I found myself answering with things that were fully or partially outside of my control, such as “today will be great when I get hired for that job I interviewed for last week”, or “today will be great when I have positive interactions with every person I see”.

The morning section of the 5-minute journal is shown here in this image:


I found that asking myself “what action would make today great” each morning for 2 weeks strongly encouraged me to actually take action each day to get closer to my goals.

During this 2 week period I took 4 particularly significant actions that I don’t think I would have taken had I not been asking myself this question each morning:

  1. Registered for the Top Performer: Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You program, a program that was a fairly large commitment of time and money, but will also hopefully be a key step in identifying and mastering important career skills.
  2. Interviewed a senior statistician at work to get advice on how to advance my skills in this area.
  3. Started a new fitness class at my local gym.
  4. Finally booked some hotels for an extended vacation later this year.

Given how effective asking this simple question to myself each morning was in encouraging myself to take action towards my goals each day, I definitely plan to continue asking myself this question each morning for at least the next two months to ensure taking purposeful action becomes a strongly formed habit.

Challenge 4: Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s Heat Exposure in Sauna

A study presented in Tools of Titans found that a 30-minute post-workout sauna session 2 times a week for 3 weeks increased running endurance by 32%, with an accompanying plasma volume increase of 7.1% and red blood cell count increase of 3.5%. In addition to impacts on endurance, heat exposure has been found to increase muscle hypertrophy and have positive effects on the brain, as outlined by Dr. Rhonda Patrick in a post titled “Are Saunas the Next Big Performance-Enhancing ‘Drug’?”. I was especially intrigued by sauna use after hearing Rhonda describe her experience using the sauna, which she credited for her ability to handle stress better and her overall reduction in anxiety.

For my final challenge for January, I attempted to replicate the study highlighted in the image below, consisting of 30 minutes in a sauna post-workout 2 times a week for 3 weeks (a total of 6 sessions).


I ended up only doing a total of 4 sessions in the sauna, with the temperature at 80C (176F) for each. In order, the session lengths were 27, 25, 25, and 15 minutes.

Although there were some clear benefits of using the sauna, after the 4th session I came to the conclusion that sauna use was not something I would continue with because a) due to the large time commitment this is not something I will be able to integrate into my life for an extended period of time, and b) the negatives outweighed the positives for me, mainly because I really don’t like the heat so found it to be quite uncomfortable staying in the heat for close to 30 minutes!

Having said that, there were some positives for sure:

  1. Social — The biggest positive was actually the social aspect. Usually, at the gym, I keep my head down and pay attention to my own workout, so haven’t met very many new people during my time at the gym. I found that during the 2 weeks of sauna use I had the opportunity to meet more new people than I did in 2 years of working out at the gym.
  2. Meditation — I found that sitting in the heat gave me an interesting opportunity to try out my Vipassana meditation practice under different circumstances, specifically practicing paying attention to sensations of heat without reacting to the sensations with an urge to get out of the heat.
    Muscle Soreness — I experienced reduced muscle soreness (almost no soreness) the days after working out.
  3. Recharged — After each session, I felt recharged, with more energy than I usually have after a workout. I found this very surprising because usually, the heat seems to drain me of energy very quickly.

Despite the positives, for the reasons mentioned above, I am not going to continue with heat exposure at this time. I think that cold exposure may be more at my pace, so I look forward to trying out a cold exposure challenge in the coming months.

January Wrap-up and a Look Ahead to February

It is a great feeling to have gotten back into the habit of trying new things each week.

The Wishing for Random People to Be Happy exercise and asking myself “what action would make today great” were both huge successes. Both were easily integrated into my life, were a very small time commitment, and had an immediate impact on my life.

Testing out Wim Hof’s breathing technique was a very interesting experience, especially finding that using the method did, in fact, enable me to hold my breath for an extended period of time. For a future challenge I will try out a cold exposure experiment and depending on how that goes may purchase Wim’s online training course.

For heat exposure in a sauna, despite some clear benefits I decided that this is not something that will add enough value to my life to justify the large time commitment.

Looking ahead to February, I will be moving on to the wealthy section of Tools of Titans and completing 4–5 challenges from that section. I have not even started looking through the section yet, but am excited to see what kind of insights are in there from titans such as Derek Sivers, Tony Robbins, and James Altucher!

Make sure to check out James and New York Real podcast’s Olive Hui, for their online study group for Tools of Titans
Topic: New York Real Tools of Titans Study Group
Time: Feb 26, 2017, 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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