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Book review: Tools of Titans

Ross Drakes is the Creative Director and Founder of Nicework a strategic branding company. He lives and works in Johannesburg South Africa where he is the incoming president of Entrepreneurs’ Organization South Africa and the host of

The world of entrepreneurship has many currencies my favourite is business book recommendations. We can spend hours at events frantically exchanging details and titles of books we are reading that relate to what we are talking about or are just dropped in to get some street cred. It is very rare that I will come away from an Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) event without at least one new book I want to read. It is the business world equivalent of trading Garbage Pail Kids cards at school break. It is not that often that one of these books hits on such a need that it breaks out of these business circles and makes it into the wider realm of social media. It seems Tools of Titans has transcended into a badge of honour that people want to share with their networks.

Tools of Titans books

I want to caveat this review with a statement that I am not a rabid Tim Ferris fan. I struggle to listen to his podcast regularly, I do really enjoy some episodes but I do find some extreme, arbitrary or self-indulgent. That said I honestly think this book is a gem. I took it with me to the mountains of the Drakensberg for my annual disconnect from the world. I was looking for an inspirational holiday read to fuel me for the coming year. I am currently 19% of the way through the book and have written over 25 pages of notes, reminders to Google, tips tricks and things I can implement into my life.

The genius of Tools of Titans is that it taps into a fundamental need people like me to learn and grow and plays to the fact that I don’t have reams of time. When you are reading it feels like a shortcut or that tip you get from a friend. This book is a summary of the patterns Tim has identified in the 200+ interviews he has conducted on the Tim Ferris show. Being a compulsively note taker Tim documents, catalogues and files all his personal and professional data. This allowed him to go back through years of interviews to identify and extract the patterns that make the humans he interviews extraordinary. In Tim’s own words “This book, like my others, is a compendium of recipes for high performance that I gathered for for my own use.”

“These world-class performers don’t have superpowers. The rules they’ve crafted for themselves allow bending reality to such an extent that it may seem that way”

I first bought the digital version of the book for kindle but I have made so many notes that I bought a second physical copy. I have now covered it in highlights, bookmarks and am constantly referencing back to the things I have read. I recommend taking Tim’s advice and using this book like a buffet. It is designed to be opened randomly and engaged with, in bite-sized chunks.

The sections vary in length from one or two pages of practical tips to in-depth cross-linked interviews peppered with Tim’s personal experiences with the principles they are sharing. I have found myself skipping whole interviews and sections, only to question what it was about that section that did not interest me. This in itself becomes a way to question yourself and look at the areas you might need to work on. By cross-referencing so many different people in such a wide array of fields some interesting patterns emerge. Over 80% of the people in the book practice some form of mindfulness daily. Many never eat breakfast and the vast majority control what they ingest into their body. Many hold the idea that “failure is not durable” and actually turn their weaknesses into competitive advantages and my personal favourites that most of them have done some form of personally funded project that they have then turned into a commercial venture.

The book is structured as a tripod to a balanced life (from a quote by Benjamin Franklin): Healthy, Wealthy and WiseHealthy: how to keep your body and mind in a physical state that allows you to perform and focus to a high degree. Wealthy: freeing yourself from work be it with finance or even with time and relationships. Finally Wise: how to develop your potential and expand your thinking. These sections are not mutually exclusive but allow you to decide what is your most burning need and focus there first.

I started with healthy because I ended the year on a stressful note and was looking for insight on how to design a healthier more sustainable lifestyle.

Even though I have not finished, this has become the book I speak about the most to people. I am not sure I will be going into ketosis (read the Health section to understand what I am talking about) anytime soon but this book has had an impact on my life. I have fixed my back with J-curls, balanced my workouts by including strength and flexibility into my running schedule and have started to clear some of the injuries that have been plaguing me for years. I am in a mentally better state and have been able to deal with the rollercoaster of 2017 in a way more positive way.

To sum up, Tim has done most of the heavy lifting of summarising hours of content, putting it in an easy access format and has categorised it so you can jump right in and get some value out immediately. If you are curious about improving yourself and are looking to make yourself more balanced and productive, this will be one of the best books you ever buy.




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