The story of how Tim Ferriss became my guru without even knowing it

What striked me most when i first stumbled upon Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Workweek” is that it was classified as an economy/entreuprenarial manual. I never felt that way about the book. Sure it gives you a few keys on how to manage a company but what it mainly is is a lifestyle guide. Like Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life” that I’ve kept as my bedside book during my teen years and which Tim loves, “The Four Hour Workweek” is a paradigm switching experience. 

TimFerriss_200

Basically the logline for the book could be: “what you always deemed as unchangeable liferules is about to change for ever”. Because that’s what this book does. It reminds you you don’t have to live the life society wants to impose on you. You have the rights and the means to choose your own lifestyle – or rather your art de vivre. To reduce Tim’s book to entrepenarial counselling is, if you ask me, pachydermic crap.

 

The first lesson I applied from Tim’s book is to define your short-term goals. The biggest reason why I felt bored was because I had nothing to do. Ok there was this ice hockey class I planned to take and would have liked to take right away but I had to wait till september for the new season to begin. I was not in a hurry, just curious to try a new sport so I was ready to wait. I would have liked to take it right away, I didn’t want to take it right away. In fact, I wanted nothing. So what I did one sunday afternoon while my wife wrote her query  letter for a new job, is I took a pen, a little notebook, Tim’s chapter 4 and I wrote a list of things I had in my mind. They were things I was curious to try, things I had always wanted but not allowed myself to do, places I wanted to visit (sadly “the whole world” isn’t specific enough when you’re looking at actionnable goals) and skills I wanted to learn (makes me realize I forgot to consider people I’d want to meet, Tim Ferriss would be one of these, if only to thank him personally for the Book). And suddenly the numbness of my mind lifted and I was cramming line after line of desires on the page. I named it “Things to do before I die” which made it easier to fill than “what do I want?”

Things to do before I die

Things to do before I die

Suddenly my life felt far less boring. There was so much to learn and so much to do I would never have enough time (another misconception soon to be gone). That’s when enthusiasm came back. I was not numb at all anymore. Next step was to take my notebook and decide which 5 things I wanted to be/have/do in the next 6 months. It proved far more easy than what I expected. I understood that I had time. 6-month periods are short enough that you can plan a lot of them in your life (about 100 hundred if you’re 30) and long enough that you can do a lot during that time. Can you think of 100 things you would want to accomplish in your life? Things that would require 6 months to achieve? I don’t. Most of what I want can be done in just a few days. Do you want examples?

I want to fly. I can paraglide in tandem right now if I want, I just need to spend a few hours to get to a moutain and I can use these hours to plan whatever other dream I want. If I want to fly alone, one-week classes are enough that you have the autonomy required to do it. I want to fire a gun. A few metro stops from my appartment there’s a shooting range. I can rent a gun there and fire a few rounds. Spent time: 2-3 hours. I want to visit Vancouver. I can do that in 10 days but I’d rather take at least a whole month, giving me time to meet people there (maybe William Gibson and Douglas Coupland, that would be nice), get a real feel of Vancouver’s life. This trip wouldn’t need any preparation apart from spending a few minutes on the phone with a travel agent. These three experiences could fit in just 1/6th of the 6 month timespan I have to allot. My point is: your life is long enough and things are easy enough to get that you don’t have to make choices you can have/do/be everything, you just need to decide what you want the most right now and what you can wait for. Then, you act, one small step at a time until you get where you wanted to be. Usually it will be faster than what you expected. Plus: it’s really cheap.

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You also need to learn to seize opportunities. I like teaching and I wanted to be a screenwriting teacher (another goal that could wait). I thought about creating my own school but that was too much work for the energy I wanted to invest in it. I wanted to be a teacher in my old school but never asked. Then I heard of an opportunity in an entirely different place with people I love. Teaching there would allow me to travel regularly, which is something I want. It would also give me the opportunity to spend more time with people whom company I enjoy and whom I have too few chances to see, which is something else I want. So I asked. I simply sent an email to the head of the school saying I heard about the vacant place and I was interested. She said yes. Time spent: 10 minutes of email writing. Learn to recognize and take these chances. They always happen, you just have to be wary for them and to be bold enough to ask for them. Sometimes you don’t even have to work for your dreams.

For longer dreams, start today and be consistent. I want to learn how to draw. I’ve always loved sketchbooks and I’m jealous of people who know how to sketch life. I want to be able to do it but I’m too lazy to take art classes. What I’m not lazy to do is sketching something for 5 minutes everyday. I use this simple exercize: take a picture, put it upside down and reproduce it. It’s supposed to help you detach your drawing for what it’s supposed to represent. You’re not drawing a tree, you’re assembling shapes and I’ve been told it’s a more efficient way to learn drawing than just trying to draw precise stuff. So that’s what I do. I have a picture that I reproduce everyday. I don’t know where this is going but my biggest faith in life is that exercising will make you reach anything. So I just do it. And I’m happy because I get to draw everyday and I feel I’m on my way to something. It might take me a few years to get there but that’s cool with me. Instead of staying frustrated by my inability to draw, I’m acting to change it and that makes the whole difference.

Act now, reconnect with your dreams, turn them into goals and ask yourself: “which of my dreams will I fulfill today?

 

Buy The Four Hour Workweek

Scrivener overview: The best crafting tool I found so far

Tim Ferriss, author of the great great great life changing book “The 4 hour workweek” twitted this morning, asking for people who knew about Scrivener.app to give him the pros and cons of the app and compare it with Evernote. Unable to reach him fast I took the time to write a sort of really quick review of the app. Being unreachable makes it so that people will take initiatives like this one. What could have been a “Scrivener is the greatest crafting tool I’ve ever used” tweet became a 1300 words long overview of the app. that I decided to post here for all to enjoy.

I cannot recommand Scrivener too much to anyone dealing with the craft of writing.

[FrenchVersion] Pour les francophones: ceci est un aperçu de l’excellent logiciel de construction de manuscrit/projet/articles/etc. Scrivener. Je l’ai écrit suite à un tweet de Tim Ferriss, auteur de “La Semaine de Quatre Heures”, que je ne saurais trop vous recommander. En substance, Scrivener est l’outil parfait pour organiser les différentes versions d’un texte, ses éléments de recherche, prendre des notes, tout ça dans un unique document et au sein d’un logiciel doté d’une foultitude de fonctions toutes plus utiles les unes que les autres. Et tout ça pour la modique somme de 40$ (~30€).[/FrenchVersion]

 

@TimFerriss Hi Tim, I work with Scrivener mostly for screenwriting and boardgame reviewing. I discovered your awesome book, about a week ago. It helped me put light on the boredom I experienced even if I had reached my dream of being a pro writer and gave me the motivational boost I needed to put some longing projects into action. So for that, thank you!

 

First, let it be known that I’m not a user of Evernote. I only discovered it thanks to your WordPress conference, two days ago, and haven’t yet given it a thorough look.

 

Ok so here’s a bit of backgroung story about me and the needs I needed Scrivener to cover. It should read fast but you can jump directly to the bolded sections for a list of pros and cons.

I’ve been using Scrivener for two month now. I used it for the sake of developping a videogame universe for Ubisoft. Before I found Scrivener I used Freemind for mindmapping and Microsoft Word for text editing. But I wanted to find an alternative to MSWord since it bugged too often and was very slow. Plus I ended up with litteraly hundreds of .doc files with all my notes, drafts and research. This is something I hated and that concurred to making MSWord bug and slow down since, needing my notes, I opened half a dozen files everytime I used the app. Needless to say the stress it built plus the time it wasted were huge. Also, MSWord isn’t really good for navigating through parts of your work while you’re writing it. Let’s say I’d be writing a script. The way I work, I need to be going back and forth throughout the scenes all the time to tweak things. Or if I’m writing a novel or an essay I never do it in a linear fashion and I need to be able to add chapters, etc. easily.

 

I used to work on my scripts with Montage and my novels with Storymill, both by Mariner’s software and they solved most of my problems: one file for all the subdocs (research notes, but not versions) and ease of navigation through different views of the script. Part of the automation process didn’t work very well though and I spent a huge time in word manually reformatting what the app had autoformatted. Plus they’re filled with bugs that hopefully don’t affect the work but slow the process of creating down. A lot.

Then I came upon Scrivener. There’s a 30 day demo where you can use the software as much as you want and then decide if you want to buy it or not. I played with it 2 hours and decided it was the perfect tool and bought the license (which, at 40$, is really reaaaalllllly cheap). I haven’t opened Montage or Storymill ever since. I still use MSWord alternatives such as Bean or Mellel for viewing single documents and editing or TextEdit for fast typing stuff I don’t need any research or drafts for (such as to-do lists, thoughts of the day, writer’s training…). I didn’t quantify my gains with Scrivener but I’m pretty sure it at least doubled my efficiency and lessened my stress about as much as I’m just a few clicks away from any info I need and I don’t even have to change files to refer to my research or old drafts.

 

How I use Scrivener

I created about ten .scriv files, one for each of my writing areas even if I suspect I’ll merge some of them into one big .scriv file because I tend to open them all at once and that disctracts me. So I’ll have something like: comicbooks.scriv; blog.scriv; animation.scriv; games.scriv; moneymaking.scriv; general_research.scriv and some project specific scrivs for bigger projects such as an animated series I’m currently developping called Cave Canem that has its very own cavecanem.scriv.

I’m a fond user of folders as they tend to help me save time. So I’ll create folders and they’ll help me find the files I need faster and reorganize my work in a glitch. For example In Comicbooks.scriv, I’ll name my folders after spectific projects and subfolders after categories (characters, outline, drafts, etc.), in games.scriv, since I review games monthly, my folders are named after months. Then in every folder I can create files and folders as I see fit, reorganize them, compare them, tweak them, colorlabel them, etc.

 

 

Scriveners split view

Scrivener's split view with labelcolored pins in the Corkboard

 

 

 

I mostly use Scrivener to keep all my files relating to the same topic in the same place. I can then easily navigate from one to the other, edit them as soon as an idea strikes me without having to open a new file, search for the place to edit, save it and go back to the previous file. I can do all that in just a few clicks without ever losing focus on my current file.

I need to refer to research docs a lot while writing and Scrivener makes that super easy thanks to its split view.

Labels work great. You can define as many colored labels as you want and you can then color the icon of the files in your sidebar to quickly see which belongs to what category/issue/topic.

There’s a nice built-in scratch pad that you can set to stay on top of all your apps, making it easy to copy-paste stuff and send it to your Scrivener without changing windows. I wish there was a hotkey to make it popup over whatever app I’m using instead of just having it float above all the time.

 

My mostly used features:

– Labels

– Splitview

– Corkboard (allows you to see your project in an index card form, very useful. Labels can be reflected in that view, too)

– Scratch pad


Some features I like:

You can assign keywords to your files, which works great to search for issue related files.

In splitview, you can play videos, audiofiles and display pictures, .pdfs, or any text file while you’re typing a text. The pause/play control is only one key combination (cmd+enter). Great for quoting, transcripting, taking notes…

There’s a cool “snapshot” feature that allows you to save an image of your work before modifying it so that if you’re not happy with changes you made you can always go back to the previous version. Why is that good? You don’t keep all drafts in your way, they don’t appear as files either in your .scriv file or on your hard drive but they’re still there if you need them.

 

So pros:

– All your files in one

– Split view allows you to open two documents at once and navigate in them independantly

– The ease of manipulating sub files, reorganising a work, outlining a story etc.

– The color labels to easily find related files, view in one glance if your topics are balanced in your whole work, etc.

– Ease of use, intuitive design (lot’s of hotkeys to learn, though but nothing that will take more than one day of use to remember)

– Lots of options for labelling, keywording, categorizing your files and a comprehensive search engine

– Fast and reliable

– Autosaves whenever you’re idle. I never thought I’d lose the habit of cmd+Sing every thirty seconds but I did in less than a week

– Super cheap

– Great full screen mode, with scalable opacity

– Great “index card” view, with synopsis of your files, status and label. Makes it easy to overview and rearrange your draft.

– Bonus: if you want to write a screenplay, there’s a template for formatting it and it works great.

 

Cons:

– It’ not a text editor. It’s a tool for crafting. You’ll need another app for the final appearance of your text

– .scriv files are huge and it’s next to impossible to email them

– Auto reformats by default when you “compile” your draft, making you do extra clicks to keep your set format. Not a good thing when you’re dealing with 100+ files.

– Scrivener is not made for cowriting and sharing files. Splitting work could turn out messy.

 

So here you go, it’s a very quick overview of the app. I hope it helps you.

Anael

 

Scrivener is a Mac only Application that you can download HERE