Tim Ferris method

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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby Stefan » Sun May 28, 2017 6:24 pm

Summary of the Tim Ferriss method

I watched an old interview with Ferriss and Ben Lewis yesterday and today you bumped this thread so I might as well take a minute and try to summarise his recommendations.

The first people should know is that there's no Tim Ferriss method. He doesn't claim to be a language teacher, he isn't selling language books, language courses or offer a unique language learning method. In his book - The 4-Hour Chef - he talks about skill acquisition while learning to cook and gives examples on how you can apply this to other areas such as learning to swim. There's nothing unique to this as he talks about methods such as the Pareto principle. Personally I'm a user of /r/productivity and truly hate that people write a new post on the Pomodoro Technique every week but I'm reminded of the xkcd comic titled Ten Thousand. His book is a summary of known skill acquisition methods, filled with examples. With this said, I believe he wrote his thesis on acquisition of Japanese by native English speakers.

As a result, you can't claim that he's doing one thing and saying another. There's no method so you can only learn from watching what he does. Read his blog posts, watch interviews and his previously mentioned episode on the language challenge. Speaking of his TV show, he wasn't satisfied with it. He planned on having 8-12 hours each day for learning but only had 2-4 hours due to all the extra work a TV show takes.



Generic skill acquisition

He mentions skill acquisition with DiSSS and CaFE.

DiSSS process:

Deconstruction - which Lego blocks should I start with?
Selection - which 20% gives 80% of results?
Sequencing - in what order should I learn?
Stakes - how do I create real consequences?

CaFE principle:

Compression - can I put the 20% on one page?
Frequency - cramming vs acceptable pain?
Encoding - how do I anchor new material to old?



Notes on language learning

He talks a lot about the famed hyperpolyglot Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti who (supposedly) learned 30+ languages languages by translating the Lord's Prayer. By doing so, he were able to deconstruct new languages and learn basic grammar. Tim Ferriss uses a similar technique with 12 + 1 sentences. This isn't a replacement of grammar learning, it's only a way to learn the basics to understand the language and summarise it on one page.

The apple is red
It is John's apple
I give John the apple
We give him the apple
He gives it to John
She gives it to him
Is the apple red?
The apples are red
I must give it to him
I want to give it to him
I'm going to know tomorrow
I can't eat the apple
(I have eaten the apple)

Combine this with a phrasebook such as Lonely Planet to get another 20-40 set phrases and learn how to pronounce the letters. Use hyphens as bridge between words when translating to understand word order, just as Assimil does.

He recommends Michel Thomas. One of his methods was to avoid learning conjunctions for every word and instead use infinitive and helping words (auxiliary verbs) such as I must eat, I want to eat, I'm going to eat tomorrow and I can't eat. Note that he doesn't say that you should do this forever, just in the beginning so you can use the language instead of drilling conjunctions.

Once you grasp the basic structure, you can combine this with a high frequency list. In one video he mentions that 1000-1200 word families should be enough to express most ideas. These are learned by using flashcards with spaced repetition and mnemonics.

One of the best ways to improve your pronunciation is to use a skilled language teacher. He believes that Princeton had one of the best Chinese 101 classes because they drilled pronunciation in class which sort of reminded me of FSI. For people learning themselves, he recommends writing a bio (because that's 90% in every new conversation when meeting people) and then record yourself talking about it. This can be expanded so you replace the bio example with the situation you're planning for. Ask a language teacher for help improving the bio, highlight your problem areas and then drill the correct pronunciation with the teacher. Note that native speakers aren't automatically good teachers. Rinse and repeat.

Besides movies and books for native material, he mentions comic books because they are filled with informal dialog. Try to live with a host family and fully immerse yourself in the language. Speaking of comic books, he mentions One Piece as a favorite and recommends that you try the same material in multiple languages to better learn the differences. Sort of like people here are using Harry Potter when learning a new language.

On a related note, he recommends that you use your new language to learn a new one instead of using English as a reference language. He also mentions using language learning books intended for native speakers - i.e. Assimil L'Anglais when learning French. By doing so, you can be fairly sure that the target language is correct.



I've probably forgotten something and I apologise if that's the case. I thought this summary was necessary because the thread is filled with misconceptions about what the "Tim Ferriss method" really is.
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby reineke » Sun May 28, 2017 9:42 pm

I prefer to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. Tim Ferris apparently also worked for Berlitz. While there is no TF method, there is plenty of room to discuss his language learning experience and approach.

Apologies to Stefan if he actually linked to the interview.

Interview #1 with Tim Ferriss: Language Learning

https://www.fluentin3months.com/4-hour/
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby zenmonkey » Mon May 29, 2017 5:49 am

reineke wrote:I prefer to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. Tim Ferris apparently also worked for Berlitz. While there is no TF method, there is plenty of room to discuss his language learning experience and approach.

Apologies to Stefan if he actually linked to the interview.

Interview #1 with Tim Ferriss: Language Learning

https://www.fluentin3months.com/4-hour/


Listening to that - it would seem his method is 'move there', 'learn immersively', 'let me redefine fluency as stumbling around'.
And focus on 'frequency words, standard sentences, production, drills' while taking Uni classes (Princeton, etc...), using tandems, SRS phrases, etc... attitude and accepting yourself at different levels.

Which isn't bad advice - but not really a 'method'.
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby Random Review » Mon May 29, 2017 1:38 pm

zenmonkey wrote:
Random Review wrote:
Atinkoriko wrote:My very first run in with this man came when he intruded into an area I know very well indeed- bodybuilding.

He claimed to have gained 34lbs of muscle in 4 weeks, whilst simultaneously losing fat and going from 16% to 12% body fat with only 2x 30 min exercise sessions per week. Now, this claim was beyond ludicrous. It was downright insulting. Even Arnold in his prime, as genetically unique as he was, never could have gained 34lbs of muscle whilst simultaneously losing fat with only 4 hours in the gym. Even the monsters who dominate the sport, as steroided to the gills as they are, still go through the same processes in which fat and muscles is gained through an increase in caloric consumption i.e. The bulking phase, followed by a cutting phase i.e. In which one reduces caloric consumption in order to lose fat (and inevitably some muscle)
To gain muscle while losing fat, especially to that extent, is simply not within the realm of possibility. This is akin to the 'Get ripped in 6 weeks' nonsense, only that those adverts are even more realistic than what Tim is claiming.

Here is a study by the Maastricht University , showing that even with heavy steroid use, the most impressive gains made by the test subjects was 16lbs of muscle over 6 weeks. The others averaged 4-11lbs of muscle over 10 weeks. And this was with significantly more resistance training and time spent in the gym that Ferris is claiming with his measly 4 hours https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15248788/

He also claims to have done this naturally, which moves his claims out of incredibly outrageous into downright insulting to all bodybuilders, amateur and professional.


So, aside from his regurgitation of well known ideas on language learning , he's already suffering from an immense lack of credibility. Thus, my hardline stance.


I'm no fan of Ferris and don't use his ideas as I don't find them useful; but this post is nothing more than expressing your own incredulity. The only facts you state are that he claims to have done X with regime Y, that one study of body builders (who presumably were not following his ideas/training regime) didn't show anything like the kind of gains he claims to have achieved and that you think that he is full of the proverbial, because in your experience, people using the methods and training regimes you have seen used don't achieve anything like these results.
Since he's not a complete moron, I assume he has proposed some mechanisms for how he (according to his claims) achieved this and you need to explain why his ideas are wrong and conventional wisdom in the field is right, or give examples of people who tried his particular recommendations (preferably to the letter) and got nothing like the same results, because both people who are full of **** and people who are blazing a new trail achieve results that the conventional wisdom in a given field (be that body building, language learning or whatever) say are impossible and provoke incredulity or even ridicule.

As it stands your post is basically circular reasoning IMO.


Not really, Tim has not demonstrated remarkable muscle or strength gains but has shown weight gains not related to free water or free fat gains and has therefore (incorrectly) claimed that these are muscle gains - when in fact they are likely related to bound hydration gains.

Since Tim is making the remarkable claims it is his responsibility to demonstrate proof and repeatability - both sorely lacking.
Your assumption is incorrect - he has not proposed a physiological mechanism that supports his claims.

As to the rate of muscular growths - since this is a field I've worked in, here are more than a few references that discuss calorie and protein needs for body composition changes and the relevant limits:

Effect of protein intake on strength, body composition and endocrine changes in strength/power athletes. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Falvo MJ, Faigenbaum AD. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006 Dec 13;3:12-8.
Macronutrient content of a hypoenergy diet affects nitrogen retention and muscle function in weight lifters. Walberg JL, Leidy MK, Sturgill DJ, Hinkle DE, Ritchey SJ, Sebolt DR. Int J Sports Med. 1988 Aug;9(4):261-6.
Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders. Lemon PW, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA. J Appl Physiol. 1992 Aug;73(2):767-75.
Influence of protein intake and training status on nitrogen balance and lean body mass. Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA. J Appl Physiol. 1988 Jan;64(1):187-93.
Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38.
Protein and amino acid metabolism during and after exercise and the effects of nutrition. Rennie MJ, Tipton KD. Annu Rev Nutr. 2000;20:457-83.
Hartman, J. W., Moore, D. R., & Phillips, S. M. (2006). Resistance training reduces whole-body protein turnover and improves net protein retention in untrained young males. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 31, 557–564.

"""Elevated protein consumption, as high as 1.8-2.0 g · kg(-1) · day(-1) depending on the caloric deficit, may be advantageous in preventing lean mass losses during periods of energy restriction to promote fat loss""
- here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22150425"


I wonder how many of those studies I could actually access. :lol:

Well first of all I apologise for the antagonistic tone of my first post, I was right in the middle of editing it when I got the reply.

The thing is that, although if we are discussing Ferris's claims per se, the burden of responsibility is his to demonstrate his remarkable claims; if we are discussing the claim that he has no credibility, the onus is on the person claiming that to show it.

My point isn't really about Ferris anyway, I personally have never seen much of value in his ideas (just my personal assessment, I'm not claiming I'm right in this); it's more the way people who know a lot about a field dismiss people who have something different to say. Most of these people with different ideas will indeed be wrong, but some of them will be right. Any field that I know anything about is both extremely useful and valid on the one hand and deeply flawed, skewed and biased on the other.

This is important because every single field in science (and human culture in general) is a work in progress and there are things that are in fact eminently possible that conventional scientific wisdom says are not. Also because the biases in science are not random but a result of power interests in our society. Finally this is something important to me, because having spent maybe 12 years at the bottom of western society until a couple of years ago, the disempowering biases in scientific ideas are something I have experienced at first hand and therefore feel passionate about. I feel deeply ambiguous when people quote scientific studies on here, they are both fascinating and dangerous. They have to be used very carefully if you want to empower people rather than disempower them. That's one thing that strikes me about people like Ferris: however wrong I may think their ideas are, I feel like they are trying to empower rather than disempower people and that's not always true of their critics (I am not talking about any poster on here), even when I think they are right.

We look back aghast on things like the way the medical establishment treated Semmelweis (and no, I'm not daft enough to be comparing Ferris with him) and delayed the adoption of hygiene methods that saved lives; but rest assured such things are happening right now and probably always will happen unless and until either science stops advancing or interest groups disappear from our society.

Now regarding the post that sparked this all off, I (almost*) stand by my statement that it contained little of value to anyone reading it (I say this as someone who strongly suspects the poster in question may be right in his/her conclusion) and I would like to see a more empowering (to the reader) post about why Ferris's claims are all off.

* I'd now rather change the unnecessarily confrontational "little of value" to "little that is helpful and empowering".
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby zenmonkey » Mon May 29, 2017 2:17 pm

Ok, that is a very thoughtful and engaging post. It merits more thought and time than I can give from finger typing on my phone; I'll come back to it this evening.
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby zenmonkey » Mon May 29, 2017 6:20 pm

Ok - Promised I'd get back to this.

Random Review wrote:I wonder how many of those studies I could actually access. :lol:


Most of them, if not all, I would think - I've read each of those and they are part of a tool I publish on calorie tracking. My background for the rest of this discussion - I'm a biomedical engineer (specialised in cell adhesion and growth) that carried out research in cell adhesion, microscopy and osteo/muscular attachment in prosthetic implants (first career - left it many years ago). Despite or because of my deep knowledge in the field, degrees and blah, blah I'm going to agree with the central premise of your post - science can be at times highly dismissive of both the outsider and challenging new ideas.

I'm going try to give my own point of view on specific claims around weight loss / muscle gain, scientific doubt and bring it back to language learning and memory skills. So bare with me if you think I'm going on a tangent, these are somewhat related.

Random Review wrote:Well first of all I apologise for the antagonistic tone of my first post, I was right in the middle of editing it when I got the reply.

The thing is that, although if we are discussing Ferris's claims per se, the burden of responsibility is his to demonstrate his remarkable claims; if we are discussing the claim that he has no credibility, the onus is on the person claiming that to show it.


Let's start with the specific - anyone making claims of extreme muscle gain after weight loss has to assure that they are not actually experiencing a few common issues in their analysis. If you go to any of the body builder or weight loss forums you'll see quite a few people that make claims that are, under scrutiny, found to be weak in reasoning or proof. I'll keep this short, on purpose but I really can either go into detail or point you to specific discussions on the subject (for example, over at myfitnesspal.com)

- measuring the components of weight loss or weight gain - muscle, fat or water is very inexact (10-35% error) outside of some costly and onerous methods like the use radio labels to evaluate protein synthesis.

- what does happen is that, spending on the loss regimen or gain regimen one will see significant gains related to changes in long term hydration on the macro level (water reserves in tissue or interstitial space) or the micro-level water sheathing on the muscular level or short term hydration changes such as post-exercise swole. These show up as non-fat weight gain but are not muscle gain (related to actual protein synthesis), per se.

- muscle protein synthesis is limited by a few factors that include energy, substrate availability, hormones, stress to muscles - this is relatively well studied and the limits of this have been published not just in one paper but in dozens and dozens of research papers. There is even a pretty good model if you want to dig into the details (Hill model).

- the field is full of unsubstantiated gimmicks and marketing schemes

- large gains in muscle should show up with very significant gains in power and strength, well beyond those only learned from training response.

So, it is relatively normal that claims of surpassing known protein synthesis (actual muscle) by more than an order of magnitude of know limits without addressing those measurement variabilities is going to be called into doubt. It doesn't mean it is impossible, just highly unlikely.

So much for the specific.

Random Review wrote:My point isn't really about Ferris anyway, I personally have never seen much of value in his ideas (just my personal assessment, I'm not claiming I'm right in this); it's more the way people who know a lot about a field dismiss people who have something different to say. Most of these people with different ideas will indeed be wrong, but some of them will be right. Any field that I know anything about is both extremely useful and valid on the one hand and deeply flawed, skewed and biased on the other.


I complete agree. A good scientist or believer of the scientific method should be capable of constantly doubting themselves - the large number of basic scientific truths that I was taught in college that are just not correct is boggling. However, research tends to be self-correcting. If an 'outsider' idea does challenge the prevailing body of knowledge then it will tend to be integrated. It may appear to be a slow process but actually moves pretty fast. I can think of literally dozens of major breakthroughs that challenged received ideas in the last 10 years. However, it is indeed a very rare idea is both true and somehow cannot be replicated in a controlled manner. Science is, in the absence of hard tests, a fickle mistress.

Random Review wrote:This is important because every single field in science (and human culture in general) is a work in progress and there are things that are in fact eminently possible that conventional scientific wisdom says are not. Also because the biases in science are not random but a result of power interests in our society. Finally this is something important to me, because having spent maybe 12 years at the bottom of western society until a couple of years ago, the disempowering biases in scientific ideas are something I have experienced at first hand and therefore feel passionate about. I feel deeply ambiguous when people quote scientific studies on here, they are both fascinating and dangerous. They have to be used very carefully if you want to empower people rather than disempower them.


The misuse of science is a vast, vast field of historic and cultural inquiry. Anyone that reads scientific articles for a while will note that they are all to some extent opinions on observations. But having a body of knowledge or observation, being able to identify weaknesses or unknowns, is in the end a judgement call that you, as an individual have to make. And there are whole areas of culture and observation where not only are facts scarce but truths may be inconsistent and multiple.

Random Review wrote:That's one thing that strikes me about people like Ferris: however wrong I may think their ideas are, I feel like they are trying to empower rather than disempower people and that's not always true of their critics (I am not talking about any poster on here), even when I think they are right.


There is this guy, Dr. Oz, empowering people to lose weight by selling them Raspberry Ketones. It doesn't work - do you think that letting people fail with methods that are just 'woo' is empowering? I'm sure it seems like Dr Oz is empowering, he's got national TV and lots of fans. At the end of the day, wasted effort on methods that do not work is not empowering in the long term. With regards specifically to Tim Ferris, I make no judgement and do NOT compare him to Dr Oz.

Helping people focus on the right things - without knocking their teeth out in the discussion - is probably more empowering then just saying 'why, yes, go ahead and try that new method everyone is trying out - everyone is different!' That last is an intellectual cop out.

Random Review wrote:We look back aghast on things like the way the medical establishment treated Semmelweis (and no, I'm not daft enough to be comparing Ferris with him) and delayed the adoption of hygiene methods that saved lives; but rest assured such things are happening right now and probably always will happen unless and until either science stops advancing or interest groups disappear from our society.


While an interesting example, you also need to be aware the scientific method, burden of proof, research methodologies in medicine where almost non-existent until the reforms that occurred 10 years after Semmelweis brought out his particle theory. And the fact that he argued emotionally and not from an evidence-based method is as much to blame for the refusal of his ideas. But in any case, epistemologically speaking, we do not live in the time Semmelweis or Pasteur. And, if we are to continue the burden of proof along the same lines Semmelweis had over 26 000 births to evaluate with over 2 000 deaths as data points while Tim Ferris has 1 data point, himself. Really, really not comparable.

Random Review wrote:Now regarding the post that sparked this all off, I (almost*) stand by my statement that it contained little of value to anyone reading it (I say this as someone who strongly suspects the poster in question may be right in his/her conclusion) and I would like to see a more empowering (to the reader) post about why Ferris's claims are all off.

* I'd now rather change the unnecessarily confrontational "little of value" to "little that is helpful and empowering".


If you wish to be empowered by Tim's learning method - watch the video interview. It is interesting.

If you wish to be empowered to lose weight or gain muscle - there are a bunch of effective quick loss methods that work. What matters in terms of success is long term maintenance - you want to empower someone? Teach them that. Teaching them to yoyo and fail repeatedly is not only ineffectual but dangerous for one's health.
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Mon May 29, 2017 6:55 pm

Surely it is fair to ask of any language-learning method, whether it's Tim Ferris's method or Assimil's or whoever's.

(1) What will it teach me or enable me to do?
(2) How will it do the teaching or enabling?
(3) Who can you show me the method worked for?
(4) What evidence do you have that Number 3 occurred?
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby Cainntear » Tue May 30, 2017 9:47 pm

Random Review wrote:The thing is that, although if we are discussing Ferris's claims per se, the burden of responsibility is his to demonstrate his remarkable claims; if we are discussing the claim that he has no credibility, the onus is on the person claiming that to show it.

Is it, though? He's a man with no real bona fides beyond "I've sold lots of books", and I don't consider that as qualifying him to say anything.

In the end, most published claims live or die on the authorities that support them, and Ferris is not an authority. If we had to accept every hack writer with a self-improvement snake oil book as OK until proven otherwise, we'd be believing a lot more rubbish.

Zenmonkey dismissed him as not an authority, and was ready to back that up with further detail -- that seems perfectly reasonable to me.
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Re: Tim Ferris method

Postby Atinkoriko » Tue Jun 06, 2017 9:45 pm

Cainntear wrote:
Random Review wrote:The thing is that, although if we are discussing Ferris's claims per se, the burden of responsibility is his to demonstrate his remarkable claims; if we are discussing the claim that he has no credibility, the onus is on the person claiming that to show it.

Is it, though? He's a man with no real bona fides beyond "I've sold lots of books", and I don't consider that as qualifying him to say anything.

In the end, most published claims live or die on the authorities that support them, and Ferris is not an authority. If we had to accept every hack writer with a self-improvement snake oil book as OK until proven otherwise, we'd be believing a lot more rubbish.

Zenmonkey dismissed him as not an authority, and was ready to back that up with further detail -- that seems perfectly reasonable to me.



Exactly. The Tim Ferris Method for Marketing would be an excellent book, since it's the one field in which he is qualified to be an authority. For anything else, into the trash it goes
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