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If you want to be a billionaire, help a billion people


By Tim Ferriss

Vermillion London, paperback/674 pages/$29.95 with GST from Books Kinokuniya or on loan from the National Library Board under the call number English 158.1 FER


The American author, serial entrepreneur, angel investor and podcast show host Tim Ferriss is best known for his contrarian "4-Hour" themed self-help books, most notoriously The 4-Hour Workweek.

Ferriss, who has just turned 40, calls himself a "compulsive note- taker" of bon mots from rubbing shoulders with Hollywood actors, Silicon Valley wunderkinds and champion athletes.

While he claims that he never meant to turn these chats into a book, that is just what he has done with the insights he got from asking 113 luminaries questions such as "What do you think of the word 'successful'?", "What would you put on a giant billboard?" and "What is the worst advice being dispensed?"

His interviewees include Internet founding father Marc Andreessen, the "oracle of Silicon Valley" Reid Hoffman, space flight pioneer Peter Diamandis and the world's most awarded obstacle racer Amelia Boone.

At 674 pages, this eclectic compendium is a successor, writ large, to the late American billionaire J. Paul Getty's 1972 bestseller How To Be A Successful Executive. Like Getty's book, this tome is crammed with how-tos and know-how, including how to make solid investments, how to think like a hacker, how to say "no" - plus nifty exercise moves to build strength and flexibility.

Most of his chosen interviewees are not household names and, for some reason, most of them have a thing for saunas, extreme sports and meditation.


1. By thinking, waiting and fasting more often than you do now, you will actually help solve a lot of the world's problems.

2. A person is a work in progress, not an object, so stop fretting about health checks and judging other personal markers as good or bad.

Ask instead: Why am I getting this result now, and how might I use it to spur me to be better? For example, says Ferriss' doctor Justin Mager, high LDL, or "bad", cholesterol is actually helpful in building lean body mass as it speeds up the process considerably.

3. The quality of your life depends on the quality of your questions as your questions show what you focus on most.

4. Say "I'm sorry, that doesn't work for me" whenever someone tries to browbeat you. Doing so sends your intent across clearly to him without emotion.

5. Whenever you are out and about, say to people who walk past or are milling about you: "I wish for you to be happy."

This takes the focus off yourself and quells almost all of your mental chatter.

6. Whenever you meet someone who vexes you, ask first: "Has this person slept? Has he eaten? Is somebody else bugging them?" After all, we never think of a bawling baby thus: "This baby's out to get me; he's got evil intentions."

7. Beware leaders who dive into, and wallow, in numbers because that means they struggle to care deeply about people.

8. If you complain, nobody will want to help you because complaining shows that you are a source of destruction, not growth.

9. To thrive in the unknowable future, choose a plan that gives you the most options. The best plan lets you change your plans.

10. The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people; that is what it means to change the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'If you want to be a billionaire, help a billion people'. Print Edition | Subscribe