The Garden of Earthly Delights

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The Absurdity of Tim Ferriss

Last weekend, it was raining and Dani was sick with a cold, so I spent a lot of time looking at weird YouTube videos. Fate led me to a seven-year-old video called Evening Routine with Tim Ferriss. If you don't know who Tim Ferriss is, he is the author of the mega-popular book The 4-Hour Work Week, which inexplicably made him a legend in the tech scene. Millennials love him. Ask any millennial if they know him. I'll walk you through his routine, and you can see how it compares to yours.

First, Ferriss combines a Douglas Fir Spring Tip tea by Juniper Ridge, which he bought at the farmers market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of honey. Then, he fills a 40-ounce Hydroflask with water and ice and demonstrates to us how he uses the Hydroflask as a replacement for a foam roller when he is traveling. This way, he doesn't have to bring both a foam roller and a Hydroflask with him every time he leaves town.

His routine continues downstairs, where he has converted a room in his basement into a soaking room. He gets in his soaking tub, which is for warm soaking, and shows us dog food containers he has filled with various medicinal salts, as well as different oils he anoints himself with that vary depending on the style of training he has performed that day.

He has another tub in the other room (not pictured) that is for cold soaking. He will alternate cold soaking and warm soaking at two-minute intervals while drinking the ice water. He gets in the soaking tub to demonstrate its size. It is larger than a bathtub, going to about chest height while standing. He performs his soaking while listening to "presentations that are motivational in some capacity".

The video intrigued and disturbed me. I clicked again. With such a ridiculous evening routine, I had to see his morning routine. This one also involves a series of oils. He shows us three different oils he drinks by the capful each morning. But, he warns us not to do the same. He has trained up to being able to tolerate these oils. If we tried the same, we would certainly shit our pants. He then drinks a Sencha with butter in it (oil). After five minutes of explanation about the benefits of the oils, he admits "I find I perform better with a little bit of food". Sometimes, he opens a can of sardines, pours some of the oil into his dog's food, and then eats the rest of the oil and fish in the can.

I watched a few other confessional vlogs. In one he tells us he keeps his phone in airplane mode during the day and when he sleeps, because every time he turns it off, he gets an uncontrollable barrage of text messages. He tells us he was scared to start meditating because he was worried he would lose his edge. He shows us his copy of Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck which his mother gifted him, that he annotated for maximum retention.

I first wrote this post out in my journal on paper as a bit of catharsis after watching the horror of these videos. Even in that context, I felt bad writing all of this. This video is seven years old, and in the meantime, he has been honest about his mental health struggle. But, this is a man whose personal journey is inextricably linked to his fame and his financial wealth. He is responsible for proliferating an absurd amount of the sludge of Silicon Valley mindset into this world, and for that, he can never be forgiven. I blame Ferriss for every bad tech blog, every single podcast, every single goo and oil that is consumed in the morning, the all-meat diet, that guy who is drinking his kid's blood so he doesn't have to age, Andrew Huberman, and saunas.

I grew up in the Silicon Valley and lived in San Francisco as an adult, working in tech during peak delusion. I have quite a lot to say about my experience living in San Francisco during that time, something that has so quickly become dated. The quintessential San Francisco experience for me was when my roommate (in an 11-person flat, where I paid $1600 for my room where I could touch both walls at the same time), who was the CEO of a successful startup, gifted us with a 75 pack of metal forks. She revealed to us that she ordered takeout every night for dinner. Instead of washing the fork when she was finished, she would fold it into the container and throw it in the trash. I just don't understand where you would have to get to mentally to be able to do that. We had a dishwasher, at the very least you could just leave the fork in the sink unwashed.

These are the kinds of people that when I lived in San Francisco recommended me the The 4-Hour Work Week like it was the Bible. I didn't feel like reading it at the time and chose not to. In retrospect, this decision may have been a foundational moment in my self-respect. After watching these videos, though, I was curious. What did he mean by "4-Hour"? Did it resemble anything similar to my lackadaisical approach to working?

I read the Wikipedia page. It did mean only working 4 hours per week, but he suggested achieving that by hiring offshore labor at $5/hour and having them write fake blog posts for you. (This is of course what I am doing here). I then took a look at his smash hit follow up The 4-Hour Body. On his website, he claims in this book to gain 34 lbs of muscle in 28 days (natural, of course), with only four hours of gym time, and to produce 15-minute female orgasms. A hugely productive month for him, no doubt.

These books are frankly shameful. This man is not well, and receiving more text messages than is probably safe for one person to receive. Most damming, Ferriss, in my mind, is responsible for the style of podcast where blowhards come on and talk about their routines. This has degraded society immeasurably and has spread from the underworld of tech motivation to influencers of every kind. Today we live in a world where any successful person feels the need to have a routine and share that routine with others. Ideally, it contains several oils.

Looking back, I can't help but feel for this man. It is not his fault that these books sparked something in the public consciousness. A collective longing to become someone else (a man, finally) through discipline.

Today, on Monday morning, when I was getting ready to start another quiet week where I would write some code, go rock climbing, and probably watch a couple more YouTube videos, I couldn't help but imagine a different world where a young Tim Ferriss wrote a book that didn't get popular, and learned to cope, like we all do, with the mundanity of life, who stepped off the wheel at 20 instead of 50, and goes to bed with his phone ringer on, in case his loved ones text.