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  • This is Tim Ferriss circa 1979 A.D. Age two.

  • You can tell by the power squat, I was a very confident boy --

  • and not without reason.

  • I had a very charming routine at the time,

  • which was to wait until late in the evening

  • when my parents were decompressing from a hard day's work,

  • doing their crossword puzzles, watching television.

  • I would run into the living room, jump up on the couch,

  • rip the cushions off, throw them on the floor,

  • scream at the top of my lungs and run out

  • because I was the Incredible Hulk.

  • (Laughter)

  • Obviously, you see the resemblance.

  • And this routine went on for some time.

  • When I was seven I went to summer camp.

  • My parents found it necessary for peace of mind.

  • And at noon each day

  • the campers would go to a pond,

  • where they had floating docks.

  • You could jump off the end into the deep end.

  • I was born premature. I was always very small.

  • My left lung had collapsed when I was born.

  • And I've always had buoyancy problems.

  • So water was something that scared me to begin with.

  • But I would go in on occasion.

  • And on one particular day,

  • the campers were jumping through inner tubes,

  • They were diving through inner tubes. And I thought this would be great fun.

  • So I dove through the inner tube,

  • and the bully of the camp grabbed my ankles.

  • And I tried to come up for air,

  • and my lower back hit the bottom of the inner tube.

  • And I went wild eyed and thought I was going to die.

  • A camp counselor fortunately came over and separated us.

  • From that point onward I was terrified of swimming.

  • That is something that I did not get over.

  • My inability to swim has been

  • one of my greatest humiliations and embarrassments.

  • That is when I realized that I was not the Incredible Hulk.

  • But there is a happy ending to this story.

  • At age 31 -- that's my age now --

  • in August I took two weeks to re-examine swimming,

  • and question all the of the obvious aspects of swimming.

  • And went from swimming one lap --

  • so 20 yards -- like a drowning monkey,

  • at about 200 beats per minute heart rate --

  • I measured it --

  • to going to Montauk on Long Island,

  • close to where I grew up,

  • and jumping into the ocean and swimming one kilometer in open water,

  • getting out and feeling better than when I went in.

  • And I came out,

  • in my Speedos, European style,

  • feeling like the Incredible Hulk.

  • And that's what I want everyone in here to feel like,

  • the Incredible Hulk, at the end of this presentation.

  • More specifically, I want you to feel like you're capable

  • of becoming an excellent long-distance swimmer,

  • a world-class language learner,

  • and a tango champion.

  • And I would like to share my art.

  • If I have an art, it's deconstructing things

  • that really scare the living hell out of me.

  • So, moving onward.

  • Swimming, first principles.

  • First principles, this is very important.

  • I find that the best results in life

  • are often held back by false constructs and untested assumptions.

  • And the turnaround in swimming came

  • when a friend of mine said, "I will go a year without any stimulants" --

  • this is a six-double-espresso-per-day type of guy --

  • "if you can complete a one kilometer open water race."

  • So the clock started ticking.

  • I started seeking out triathletes

  • because I found that lifelong swimmers often couldn't teach what they did.

  • I tried kickboards.

  • My feet would slice through the water like razors,

  • I wouldn't even move. I would leave demoralized, staring at my feet.

  • Hand paddles, everything.

  • Even did lessons with Olympians -- nothing helped.

  • And then Chris Sacca, who is now a dear friend mine,

  • had completed an Iron Man with 103 degree temperature,

  • said, "I have the answer to your prayers."

  • And he introduced me to

  • the work of a man named Terry Laughlin

  • who is the founder of Total Immersion Swimming.

  • That set me on the road to examining biomechanics.

  • So here are the new rules of swimming,

  • if any of you are afraid of swimming, or not good at it.

  • The first is, forget about kicking. Very counterintuitive.

  • So it turns out that propulsion isn't really the problem.

  • Kicking harder doesn't solve the problem

  • because the average swimmer only transfers about three percent

  • of their energy expenditure into forward motion.

  • The problem is hydrodynamics.

  • So what you want to focus on instead

  • is allowing your lower body to draft behind your upper body,

  • much like a small car behind a big car on the highway.

  • And you do that by maintaining a horizontal body position.

  • The only way you can do that

  • is to not swim on top of the water.

  • The body is denser than water. 95 percent of it would be,

  • at least, submerged naturally.

  • So you end up, number three,

  • not swimming, in the case of freestyle,

  • on your stomach, as many people think, reaching on top of the water.

  • But actually rotating from streamlined right

  • to streamlined left,

  • maintaining that fuselage position as long as possible.

  • So let's look at some examples. This is Terry.

  • And you can see that he's extending his right arm

  • below his head and far in front.

  • And so his entire body really is underwater.

  • The arm is extended below the head.

  • The head is held in line with the spine,

  • so that you use strategic water pressure to raise your legs up --

  • very important, especially for people with lower body fat.

  • Here is an example of the stroke.

  • So you don't kick. But you do use a small flick.

  • You can see this is the left extension.

  • Then you see his left leg.

  • Small flick, and the only purpose of that

  • is to rotate his hips so he can get to the opposite side.

  • And the entry point for his right hand -- notice this,

  • he's not reaching in front and catching the water.

  • Rather, he is entering the water

  • at a 45-degree angle with his forearm,

  • and then propelling himself by streamlining -- very important.

  • Incorrect, above, which is what almost every swimming coach will teach you.

  • Not their fault, honestly.

  • And I'll get to implicit versus explicit in a moment.

  • Below is what most swimmers

  • will find enables them to do what I did,

  • which is going from 21 strokes per 20-yard length

  • to 11 strokes

  • in two workouts with no coach, no video monitoring.

  • And now I love swimming. I can't wait to go swimming.

  • I'll be doing a swimming lesson later, for myself, if anyone wants to join me.

  • Last thing, breathing. A problem a lot of us have, certainly, when you're swimming.

  • In freestyle, easiest way to remedy this is

  • to turn with body roll,

  • and just to look at your recovery hand as it enters the water.

  • And that will get you very far.

  • That's it. That's really all you need to know.

  • Languages. Material versus method.

  • I, like many people, came to the conclusion

  • that I was terrible at languages.

  • I suffered through Spanish for junior high, first year of high school,

  • and the sum total of my knowledge

  • was pretty much, "Donde esta el bano?"

  • And I wouldn't even catch the response. A sad state of affairs.

  • Then I transferred to a different school sophomore year, and

  • I had a choice of other languages. Most of my friends were taking Japanese.

  • So I thought why not punish myself? I'll do Japanese.

  • Six months later I had the chance to go to Japan.

  • My teachers assured me, they said, "Don't worry.

  • You'll have Japanese language classes every day to help you cope.

  • It will be an amazing experience." My first overseas experience in fact.

  • So my parents encouraged me to do it. I left.

  • I arrived in Tokyo. Amazing.

  • I couldn't believe I was on the other side of the world.

  • I met my host family. Things went quite well I think,

  • all things considered.

  • My first evening, before my first day of school,

  • I said to my mother, very politely,

  • "Please wake me up at eight a.m."

  • So, (Japanese)

  • But I didn't say (Japanese). I said, (Japanese). Pretty close.

  • But I said, "Please rape me at eight a.m."

  • (Laughter)

  • You've never seen a more confused Japanese woman.

  • (Laughter)

  • I walked in to school.

  • And a teacher came up to me and handed me a piece of paper.

  • I couldn't read any of it -- hieroglyphics, it could have been --

  • because it was Kanji,

  • Chinese characters adapted into the Japanese language.

  • Asked him what this said.

  • And he goes, "Ahh, okay okay,

  • eehto, World History, ehh, Calculus,

  • Traditional Japanese." And so on.

  • And so it came to me in waves.

  • There had been something lost in translation.

  • The Japanese classes were not Japanese instruction classes, per se.

  • They were the normal high school curriculum for Japanese students --

  • the other 4,999 students in the school, who were Japanese, besides the American.

  • And that's pretty much my response.

  • (Laughter)

  • And that set me on this panic driven search for the perfect language method.

  • I tried everything. I went to Kinokuniya.

  • I tried every possible book, every possible CD.

  • Nothing worked until I found this.

  • This is the Joyo Kanji. This is a Tablet rather,

  • or a poster of the 1,945 common-use characters

  • as determined by the Ministry of Education in 1981.

  • Many of the publications in Japan limit themselves to these characters,

  • to facilitate literacy -- some are required to.

  • And this became my Holy Grail, my Rosetta Stone.

  • As soon as I focused on this material,

  • I took off.

  • I ended up being able to read Asahi Shinbu, Asahi newspaper,

  • about six months later -- so a total of 11 months later --

  • and went from Japanese I to Japanese VI.

  • Ended up doing translation work at age 16 when I returned to the U.S.,

  • and have continued to apply this material

  • over method approach to close to a dozen languages now.

  • Someone who was terrible at languages,

  • and at any given time, speak, read and write five or six.

  • This brings us to the point,

  • which is, it's oftentimes what you do,

  • not how you do it, that is the determining factor.

  • This is the difference between being effective -- doing the right things --

  • and being efficient -- doing things well whether or not they're important.

  • You can also do this with grammar.

  • I came up with these six sentences after much experimentation.

  • Having a native speaker allow you to deconstruct their grammar,

  • by translating these sentences into past, present, future,

  • will show you subject, object, verb,

  • placement of indirect, direct objects, gender and so forth.

  • From that point, you can then, if you want to,

  • acquire multiple languages, alternate them so there is no interference.

  • We can talk about that if anyone in interested.

  • And now I love languages.

  • So ballroom dancing, implicit versus explicit --

  • very important.

  • You might look at me and say, "That guy must be a ballroom dancer."

  • But no, you'd be wrong

  • because my body is very poorly designed for most things --

  • pretty well designed for lifting heavy rocks perhaps.

  • I used to be much bigger, much more muscular.

  • And so I ended up walking like this.

  • I looked a lot like an orangutan, our close cousins, or the Incredible Hulk.

  • Not very good for ballroom dancing.

  • I found myself in Argentina in 2005,

  • decided to watch a tango class -- had no intention of participating.

  • Went in, paid my ten pesos,

  • walked up -- 10 women two guys, usually a good ratio.

  • The instructor says, "You are participating."

  • Immediately: death sweat.

  • (Laughter)

  • Fight-or-flight fear sweat, because I tried ballroom dancing in college --

  • stepped on the girl's foot with my heel. She screamed.

  • I was so concerned with her perception of what I was doing,

  • that it exploded in my face,

  • never to return to the ballroom dancing club.

  • She comes up, and this was her approach, the teacher.

  • "Okay, come on, grab me."