Success

Tim Ferriss: Successful People Aren't Different -- You're Just Making Excuses

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The world's most successful people may seem superhuman, but to think that they are fundamentally different from you is dead wrong, says Tim Ferriss.

In fact, the author, entrepreneur and investor says telling yourself otherwise is just an excuse for your own lack of achievement.

"Successful people -- however they define that -- succeed despite their flaws, not because they don't have any," Ferriss tells CNBC. "They succeed despite their insecurities, not because they don't have any."

Ferriss shot to fame in 2007 after publishing his guide to productivity, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. He has since written other books and launched the podcast The Tim Ferriss Show, where he interviews a range of accomplished people.

Ferriss trades in the currency of success -- what it looks like, how it is achieved and how it can be optimized -- and he says that oftentimes the most successful people are mythologized by the public.

"It's very common on the magazine covers and elsewhere for normal, flawed, imperfect human beings to be turned into superheroes and portrayed as superhuman in one way or another," he says.

Ferriss, it should be noted, has been on multiple magazine covers himself, including Inc. and Outside Magazine.

The reality is not so glamorous. "Every multi-millionaire that I know, and every billionaire that I know, has had days when they would prefer to just stay under the covers," he says. "They all have their own demons."

Even Ferriss, who's seen by many as a productivity guru, has his moments. He admits that he sometimes fritters away time, presses snooze and sees a therapist.

That's why he wants to debunk this idea that successful people operate on a different plane than the rest of us. "You don't need to be perfect to get started," says Ferriss. "And you are never going to be perfect; you just have to get started."

Indeed, Ferriss, the man who launched a career around being the four-hour-workweek guy, says he sucks at efficiency. But he's learned a disciplined technique to keep him on track: Each day, he writes down, with pen and paper, the three to five most important items on his to-do list for the day and then blocks out a two- to three-hour uninterrupted chunk of time to work on the most important item.

To think that ultra-successful people are different from you is a false assumption, he says -- a comfortable false assumption, perhaps, but wrong nonetheless.

"If you organize your life through the lens of seeing successful people as fundamentally completely different than yourself," says Ferriss, "it gives you a way to absolve yourself of responsibility."

"Then you are telling yourself you cannot be successful. And oftentimes that is just to give yourself an out so that you don't have to commit the time or the resources or the thinking to determining how to improve yourself."


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Edition: December 2016

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