Get George Bush to Help You Skip Airport Lines

“And my concern, David, is several.”

-George W. Bush, to NBC’s David Gregory, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2007

Good ‘ol GW was kind enough, prior to starting WWIII, to grant me express service at airports nationwide. That’ll be helpful when the time comes to escape.

Five weeks ago, I applied for the controversial CLEAR registered traveler program. In a nutshell, I am now able to use exclusive check-in and security lines at select airports nationwide, which should cut my time to gate by at least 80%. This is particularly valuable at San Jose International, where the single-file lines of 300-400 people can wrap in up through three floors of parking levels. I kid you not. The dedicated CLEAR lane allows me to laugh like a smug jerk, side-step the line, and walk through security (with shoes on, I might add) in five minutes or less.

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So what’s the catch?

To join this little club, you need to submit to a “Security Threat Assessment” — an extensive background check through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including registering biometric information such as iris scans and multiple finger prints… Continue reading “Get George Bush to Help You Skip Airport Lines”

How to Firewall Attention and Reclaim Time

I am a strong proponent of “single-tasking” as the defining feature of top performers in a digital world. Social media expert Brian Oberkirch just posted a great list of rules he’s implemented for “firewalling attention”, to quote the inimitable Merlin Mann and Gina Trapani. Here are a few of my favorite picks:

* I’m checking email Dr. Pepper style, at 10, 2, and 4. Batching should help, and also making it a sprint to process my inbox within 10 to 15 minutes. “Reply to” stuff goes in that folder. Stuff I note and might want later goes to “Archive”. Stuff I never need again gets deleted. You can delete a ton of your email. Really. Process voice mails at the same time. (I’ll also do an RSS feed run at these times. I’ll reward myself with a flickr/twitter/mefi review if I’m a good boy.)

* No email review in the morning as I start my machine.

* Turned off all email notifications from social networking sites.

* Stop trying to accomodate a global work schedule. Again, unless it’s really mandatory or unavoidable, I work during my work hours, not those in other parts of the world.

* No answering emails on the weekends, unless absolutely necessary. One review per day on Sat/Sun.

* Dump new contacts immediately into Address Book so I never waste time looking up contact info.

* Make “no” the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.

His full list can be found here. In light of the recent Blackberry blackout and all of the depressing interruption addiction it highlighted, I plan to lobby here in the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose, to have Father’s Day (Third Sunday of June) also officially made “E-mail Detox Day,” during which people attempt a 24-hour e-mail fast. The trick to stepping off of the gas pedal is proving to yourself that it can be done.

Anyone interested in helping me make that national (or international)? In the meantime, are there any former Crackberry addicts out there with tips for newbies trying to break the once-every-5-minutes e-mail habit?

Mastering the Low-Information Diet… and Pre-order Crisis!

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Presenting “Mastering the Low-Information Diet” at the Web 2.0 Exposition in SF (Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon… Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google… Tim Ferriss?! Too surreal.

I presented last Sunday at the Ignite portion of the huge Web 2.0 Expo, where two groups of speakers each gave 5-minute presentations of 20 slides. Each slide was set to auto-advance after 15 seconds. There was free beer, it was fun, and — unbenownst to me — attendees voted on their favorite presentation in each group via cell phone using Mozes. I won the first heat and was informed that I would be speaking at the keynote today in front of 3,000 people! Other keynote presenters included Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt.

I’ll be covering “Mastering the Low-Information Diet” in great depth on May 9th, when my manifesto on the same topic will be published through Seth Godin’s ChangeThis. In the meantime, here is part of the Sunday video, which covers: batching e-mail, applying the 80/20 principle to time-consuming customers, outsourcing your life to overseas assistants, and scheduling life to prevent work from filling evenings and weekends.

IMPORTANT NOTE!

I just learned that most bookstores in the CA bay area have understocked my book (which launches next Tues.), planning to have only 1 or 2 copies in stock! This is a disaster, as there is already demand and people will need to wait up a week for reorders to arrive, killing the book’s first week of sales.

This first week is CRITICAL for bestseller lists, both local and national. Pre-orders online are equally important, as all pre-orders count for the first week’s national sales.

If you are thinking of getting the book and are not in the CA bay area, please preorder on Amazon. If you are in the bay area, please call one of the below stores to preorder ASAP this week!

The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss (ISBN number 0307353133)

Stacey’s, 581 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94105. (415) 421-4687

Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. (415) 927-0960

Cody’s Books, 1730 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710. (510) 559-9500

Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. (650) 324-4321

If you’re still wondering about the book, please check out the buzz and review and summary posted today by uberdesigner David Seah, whom I’ve never met.

Thanks to all for helping me with this! It’s my first book, and I put more than 2 years of sweat and tears into it. More big news to come soon.

How to Test Your Dream Job II (Case Study: Me as Kentucky Horserace Gambler)

“It’s been my experience that folks with no vices have very few virtues.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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I never bet.

Well, usually not. I’ll never play craps or other games of chance, but I have bet on one type of sport in the past: UFC fights. And here’s the rub: I’ve never lost.

Late last week I traveled to the Bluegrass capital of the world — Kentucky — to hang out with Drew Curtis, CEO of Fark.com, and decided to test my luck on a different sport: horse racing. The difference here, of course, is that I know a lot about fighting and absolutely nothing about horse racing.

The rub? I won cash on every race I personally put money on. I’ll tell you how I did it, but let’s begin at the beginning of the story… Continue reading “How to Test Your Dream Job II (Case Study: Me as Kentucky Horserace Gambler)”

How to Test Your Dream Job (Case Study: Me as Monkey Trainer)

Ever had the desire to run off and join the circus? I have.

Two weeks ago, I finally decided: enough is enough. I need some monkeys. Who hasn’t? I’d dreamed of having a monkey on my shoulder ever since I first watched Indiana Jones. So, I called the San Francisco Zoo and asked if I could drop by and play with their monkeys — did they have capuchins? No and no, respectively; however, there was a famous trainer in Napa with baboons. They’d get back to me with his number.

And they did.

Last Saturday, I spent the afternoon with the Jedi master of baboon trainers, Kevin Keith of Napa. He gets called when Hollywood needs monkeys to interact with Sandra Bullock without biting her face off. It was AWESOME. And, God save the queen, he had capuchins. AND spider monkeys, New Guinea singing dogs (the rarest breed in the world, by some accounts), Mandrille baboons, and much more.

For me, this was just the latest experiment in a long string of testing dream jobs — shark diver, tango dancer, MMA competitor, truffle maker, author, etc. — albeit a long-overdue one. Is it possible to just run off and test dreams jobs like this? Sure it is. Is it common? No, but it is very, very possible.

Ever thought of being a chef, chocolatier, dog sledder, astronaut, fashion designer, or sports team manager? There are companies that will pair you with mentors to give you just this experience. Continue reading “How to Test Your Dream Job (Case Study: Me as Monkey Trainer)”

How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise

Fat Loss via Better Science and Simplicity

It is possible to lose 20 lbs. of bodyfat in 30 days by optimizing any of three factors: exercise, diet, or drug/supplement regimen. I’ve seen the elite implementation of all three in working with professional athletes. In this post, we’ll explore what I refer to as the “slow-carb diet”.

In the last six weeks, I have cut from about 180 lbs. to 165 lbs., while adding about 10 lbs. of muscle, which means I’ve lost about 25 lbs. of fat. This is the only diet besides the rather extreme Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) that has produced veins across my abdomen, which is the last place I lose fat (damn you, Scandinavian genetics). Here are the four simple rules I followed… Continue reading “How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise”

Enjoy the Perfect Shower Anywhere in the World…for $2.96

It never fails. After a day of hiking in the mountains, or sightseeing in a new city, you return to your hotel to clean off the smog and assorted grime and… drip, drip, drip. I’ve had crappy, low-pressure showers in every country I’ve visited, except Japan.

What’s so special about Japan? Their design is, above all else, simple. Simple = few things can go wrong. In most other countries, especially the US, shower heads have followed the Gillette approach to product innovation: complexity. “Now you can experience the ultimate in shaving technology: the Ultra-XL5000 with 15 razors!” Shower heads now have dozens of tiny holes that get clogged with minerals and decorative hoses that get kinked and knotted.

About one month ago, I had what would be the last frustrating shower in my new house. I have just come home from jiu-jitsu training and had to scrub myself for about 30 minutes under a drizzle of water to get soap off of my mat-burned body. No fun. I headed straight to Home Depot the next morning and bought three shower heads to test. All of them took up to 45 minutes to install, with assembly and hardware; two of them were too cumbersome and long to be practical (the pipe for my shower is at near-Hobbit height for some reason); and the last barely increased water pressure, despite having “increase water pressure up to 10x!!!” on the package.

I returned to Home Depot and asked for the smallest showerhead they sold, which brought me to an odd little gadget the size of a wine cork.

“Oh, you don’t want that one,” said the employee.

“Why not?”

“I’ve never seen anyone buy it. Too simple and ugly.” I was sold.

The Alson’s Incredible Head (TM) Power Shower showerhead has been one of the best investments in my home and travel life. I installed it in 10 seconds with no more than hand tightening, and my first shower was like going from Chinese water torture to a fire hydrant. Those of you who played sports in high school will find it pleasantly reminiscent of high school power showers. There is a small ball-bearing that increases pressure, much like when you put your thumb over a hose to increase spraying distance. This design also cuts down on water use 30-40%! The Japanese would be proud.

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I have since bought another Incredible Head (TM) (I’m not kidding) showerhead for traveling, and it has fit almost every shower I’ve encountered abroad.

Go simple and be clean. Two rules to live by.

How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires…

[Editor’s note: This was written in 2007 but much still applies]

One of the most common questions I’m asked is: what is your favorite place you’ve visited? While I love dozens of cities and just as many countries, I have four that immediately jump to mind: San Francisco, Tokyo, Berlin, and Buenos Aires. I’ve listed them in descending order of expense, and this is where I’ll tie it back to an oddly common question I get:

How do I become a tango expert?

I’m the first American to hold a Guinness World Record in tango, which was done on a lark while I was living in BsAs (that’s Buenos Aires) in 2005 and competed in the world championships. Fortunately for you, dear reader, becoming a tango expert and living like a rock star can go hand-in-hand if you hack BsAs properly.

First, why BsAs? Four reasons off the top of my head:

  1. Created by immigrants from Spain, Italy, and Germany, you get the best food, architecture, and culture from all three. This mix of genetics also produces some incredible physical specimens. In fact, I rank Argentines right up there with Norwegians as the most beautiful people in the world.

  2. In my experience, it’s one of the safest cities in South America. It looks like Paris in many places, and I have never felt threatened on the street, even after 2am. Try that in SF or NYC.

  3. Argentina is the New Zealand of the western hemisphere. From tropical rain forests in the north to world-class skiing in Patagonia, it has it all. Check out rare tropical birds or watch penguins get eaten by killer whales — it’s your choice. Argentina is the most beautifully diverse country I have ever visited.

  4. It is possible to live like a millionaire on $30,000 a year. I’ve been there four times and can tell you this: dollars get you a quality of life that is all but impossible in the US. Even with the getting-there costs, I saved more than $10,000 on my last trip when compared to just sitting on my ass in Silicon Valley, and I was living like a rock star the whole time in BsAs: 5-star meals, VIP tables, you name it.

So, should you take the jump and move to Argentina? I have friends who have done it, but I recommend you take a 1-3-month “mini-retirement” first to take it for a test drive. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

1. Timing:

Airfare will run between $500-850 roundtrip, so ensure that you’re staying for a while. Remember that it’s summer and hot as hell in BsAs in December-January. November or March-April are gorgeous, and summer time in the US is perfect for skiing in Bariloche or Las Lenas.

2. Flights:

I generally fly Continental/Copa through Panama, as I like to spend 1-4 weeks snorkeling in Coiba in Panama (why not get two trips for the price of one?). If not, Aerolineas Argentina often offers good prices, and you can sometimes get deals by flying into Rio or Sao Paulo, Brazil and then to BsAs on Gol or TAM. Check airfares immediately after 1am on Saturday nights (Sunday mornings), when many airlines lower prices based on “flight load” (ratio of sold-to-empty seats).

3. Housing:

One negative to Argentina, especially BsAs — people will attempt to overcharge you. This will happen in any country with weak currency. I’ve rented rooms with families, used Argentine brokers to get shared apartments, rented posh penthouses from expats, and found hidden gems through Germans. My conclusion? It’s not worth the headache to deal with most Argentines and attempt to save a few hundred dollars. I had a huge pain in the ass with a dishonest Argentine landlord who refused to return my deposit — and I speak fluent Argentine Spanish — so now I deal exclusively with non-Argentines. There are some great Argies, to be sure, but they have the reputation among South Americans for being unreliable (!). Use www.craigslist.org or my favorite outfit: http://www.ba4uapartments.com.ar I’m not gay, but I do like how gay-friendly agencies keep their apartments: impeccably clean. [Update: Airbnb is a great option, as the platform mitigates a lot of the issues.]

No matter what, you’ll likely end up paying 3x more than an Argentine. A decent room in a good location can be found for $300 USD, a great single bedroom apartment can be found for $700-800 USD, but here’s one tip: if you can get a friend to come with you (or if you have a family), a two-bedroom or three-bedroom can be had for $1,200-1,300, and it will be 10x more luxurious than the one-bedroom. My favorite areas to live are, in descending order of preference: Recoleta (I like near Plaza Francia), Palermo, Barrio Norte, and San Telmo. Puerto Madero is the most expensive area and people fight for it, but it’s quite boring unless it’s a weekend evening.

4. Clubs, VIP treatment, and Food:

Spend an evening walking around one of the best hotels in BsAs, such as The Four Seasons, Sheraton, or Hotel Alvear, and make friends with one of the managers on call. They get VIP tables at all of the top clubs — Asia de Cuba, Opera Bay, Mint, Amerika, etc. — and can get you on the lists, so invite them for drinks and ask them for suggestions of where to meet. If not, just visit the clubs around 10pm on a Thursday or Friday and ask to meet the director of special events, or the manager (“gerente”). Tell him you’d like to bring some friends to the club and ask how to get on the list. Keep his card in your wallet to flash at bouncers. Worst case scenario, just spend $50 USD with a few friends and you can get a 6-person VIP table with unlimited champagne for the night 😉

For wining and dining, my faves are Gran Bar Danzon and La Bistecca, but more than both combined, I love all of the hole-in-the-wall parrillada (Argentine BBQ) restaurants. Just wander down Lavalle off of Avenida Florida and take your pick: the beef sandwiches for $3 USD (use plenty of chimichurri) will blow your mind.

5. Tango:

I had no interest in tango before visiting Argentina. I thought it was effeminate and ridiculous, something out of Shall We Dance? (the Japanese original is not to be missed) The truth is that social tango is completely improvised (much like my first love, breakdancing). Chest to chest, strangers will embrace and get to know each other more in three minutes than 10 dates would otherwise accomplish. Every night of the week, tango rules the night, only really getting started around 1am. Here are some of my favorite milongas (tango dance halls):

“New wave” (nueva onda) tango and 20-30-something crowd:

“La Viruta” at Armenia and Cordoba, inside the Armenian Cultural Center (odd, I know). 1am+ on Wed, Sat, and Sunday are awesome. I took a kiwi friend of mine there the day before he flew back to NZ, and he said to me: “Thanks for ruining my life.” He had been in BsAs for three months and had never seen such wildlife.

Traditional and older crowd: “Sunderland” or “La Baldosa” — find “El Tangauta” magazine in any tango shop, or at La Viruta, for addresses and all the tango info you can handle. Also use Ctrl-F to find any of the milongas I mention here.

If it is your first time in BsAs, I would recommend having an Argentine friend call the teachers and ask for pricing for an unnamed “friend,” not mentioning that you’re a foreigner. Otherwise, I promise that you will be overcharged. Smelling dollars, someone who should cost 50 pesos/hour will ask for 80 dollars. You should be able to get excellent private lessons for 50 pesos/hour. Good group lessons can be found at the Carlos Coppelo school in front of Shopping Abasto. My favorite private teacher is the young prodigy Gabriel Misse, but he’s going to be more expensive than most. He trained me for the world championships and is amazing. Here is a clip of Gabriel and his partner Alejandra Martinan. It starts off slow, but watch the amazing footwork as they progress. Most amazing? It is ALL improvised on the spot.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNhgBjdXKZU?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0&w=500&h=405]

If you want to live like a king, it’s just a few thousand miles south. Viva la Argentina!

Related and Suggested:

Tim Ferriss – 3 Tips for Would-Be Dancers: From 1st Class to World-Class in 6 Months

Freeing Yourself from the Daily Grind – Tim Interview on Yahoo Travel

Rolf Potts, author of one of my favorite books of all time, Vagabonding, recently interviewed me on Yahoo! Travel for his column Traveling Light: The Art of Independent Travel. I forgot to post it here, as I was, well… traveling overseas!

It answers some of the most important questions that keep us from escaping or enjoying life once we do:

*What are the biggest misconceptions people have about work, and making time for travel?

*So what is the best way to negotiate your way into a mobile work lifestyle?

*Many people often can’t stop thinking about work minutiae, even when they’re far away from the traditional office setting. How do you get your mind, and not just your body, out of the office?

Here’s part of the introduction:

With the advent of new communication technologies it has also become possible to adopt what has been called a “global mobility lifestyle,” which allows you to redesign your work life in such a way that it can mix in with extended travel. Entrepreneur and Princeton University guest lecturer Tim Ferriss has written a book about this, The 4-Hour Workweek, that will hit bookstores in April. I contacted him by e-mail to get some perspective on making your work work for you (instead of the other way around)… (Read the interview)

How to Check E-mail Twice a Day… And Have Your Boss Accept It

Think your boss won’t go for an email autoresponder?

You’d be surprised. Here is one example from a SXSW attendee. His two e-mail to me have been combined with a bit of editing for length.

Hey Tim,

Here’s what i took away from your presentation (and put into action!):

I sent out an email to everyone in my division letting them know i’ll only be checking email at 11a & 4p. I’ve included my email down below:

“Hi all…

In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency I am beginning a new personal email policy. I’ve recently realized I spend more time shuffling through my inbox and less time focused on the task at hand. It has become an unnecessary distraction that ultimately creates longer lead times on my ever-growing ‘to do’ list.

Going forward I will only be checking/responding to email at 11a and 4p on weekdays. I will try and respond to email in a timely manner without neglecting the needs of our clients and brand identity.

If you need an immediate time-sensitive response… please don’t hesitate to call me. Phones are more fun anyways.

Hopefully this new approach to email management will result in shorter lead times with more focused & creative work on my part. Cheers & here’s to life outside of my inbox! “

So far the response has been very receptive and supportive. Here’s the quick “reply to all” email response i got from our senior operations manager (he oversees 5 radio stations. and most of the people in the building):

“Tim,

AWESOME time management approach!!! I would love to see more people adopt that policy.

-C.”

I’m sticking to it and it’s making my days more productive already. As the days are progressing, more people are “on the bus” with respecting my new email policy and i havent had any snags (even with SXSW going on – and i work in Austin radio, so we’re all swamped this week). However, every single person feels like it just wouldn’t work for them if they did it. (“oh, but i’m on too many mailing lists” or “All i do is work in my email box, i have to.” i’m sure you’ve heard it all before).

As far as your presentation… A major thing i took away is applying the concept of 80/20 to my workflow. I’ve always known i waste a great deal of time on things that ultimately aren’t showing the bulk of my ROI. Hearing you present it in a new light enabled me to start actively weeding out the time wasting clients & processes. I do a lot of work that our interns should be doing. So i’ve begun designating responsibility appropriately, thus freeing up my plate for the more relevant tasks. It will be a slow process, but senior management is on the same page with me.

Cheers,

Tim Duke

KROX & KBPA – Interactive Brand Manager

Here is a shorter autoresponder another attendee successfully implemented:

Thank you for your email! Due to my current workload I am only checking email at 11am and 4pm. If you need anything immediately please call me on my cell so that I can address this important matter with you. Thank you and have a great day!

-Tom

My personal e-mail autoresponder limits me to once per day and indicates “I check e-mail once per day, often in the evening. If you need a response before tomorrow, please call me on my cell.” My business e-mail autoresponder, on the other hand, gives me the option to check email once every 7-10 days.

The real hard part, of course, is keeping yourself away from that damn inbox. Get on a strict low-information diet and focus on output instead of input; your wallet and weekends will thank you for it.