When Your Passion Becomes Your Livelihood and Other Ideas from Tim Ferriss

Last night, after an enjoyable dinner at the Rio with some of the Mobius crew, I chatted on the phone for an hour with Tim Ferriss. Tim, 29, is a Bay Area-based, remarkably down-to-earth serial lifestyle entrepreneur:

  • Princeton University Guest Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and High-Tech Entrepreneurship
  • No-Holds-Barred Cage Fighter, Vanquisher of Four World Champions
  • Speaker of Six Foreign Languages: Japanese (learned in three months), Chinese (learned in one month), German, Spanish, Italian, and Korean
  • First American in History to hold a Guinness World Record in Tango
  • Trainer and Advisor to more than 30 World Record Holders in Professional and Olympic Sports
  • Nutriceutical Designer and Glycemic Index Researcher
  • National Chinese Kickboxing Champion
  • Political Asylum Researcher and Activist
  • Knight and Ordained Minister
  • MTV Breakdancer in Taiwan
  • Speedo Model in the Hamptons
  • Actor on Hit TV Series in China and Hong Kong

Jesus, can you get any more average and boring than that?!

Among other delightful topics of conversation, Tim made the point about the risk of turning your passion or hobby into your primary income-generating activity. Just like you’re less likely to enjoy a book that is assigned to you in school, you’re less likely enjoy the work you’re doing if it’s livelihood. John Amaechi, the ex-NBA athlete who came out of the closet, noted that many NBA stars don’t even enjoy basketball by the time they’re in the pros. As career advice, this is counterintuitive ("Find your passion and then get paid for it!"), and I don’t know if I agree, but it made me think, which is most important.

Tim’s book, The Four Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, comes out April 24. I’ll be checking it out. Here’s his blog.

I continue to be in awe and totally humbled by some of the folks who are part of my life, even in the smallest ways. Some of it the result of effort — I work hard on my "people flow", some of it sheer luck. Either way, a good reminder for me that the world is full of interesting and amazing people — the key is to be open to finding them.

14 Responses to When Your Passion Becomes Your Livelihood and Other Ideas from Tim Ferriss

  1. Jing says:

    Ben,

    I think I’d agree with the “risk of turning your passion or hobby into your primary income-generating activity” idea. I used to know a girl who had incredibly talent for art back in high school, and I asked her why she did not choose to pursue it (why it’s a hobby) since she was going to Berkeley to study biology. She told me because she wanted to “keep it pure” and do “what she wanted to do.” It seems to me like the moment you do your passion “for something” or “for someone else” other than yourself, you immediately lose control of it. It’s no longer yours. I guess in a way it’s like getting VC funding for your company ;p…

    Jing

  2. krishna says:

    You know what the real problem is ? The Basketball players must have elected to play the game ( content) when they actually were after the limelight, the fanfare and the media attention (outcome) it gave. When that wears off and the strain begins to tell, their love for the game vanishes.

    You don’t need to be gaga over grass to be a great lawn-care franchisee. There’s no need to be passionate about dog poop to become a super-duper pooper-scooper. And yes, even a vegetarian can make a great fast-food franchisee. You don’t need passion for the franchise’s product or service–but you do need passion for some personal result (profit/wealth) that you believe you can achieve by being a franchisee – which will never fade.

    Imagine the outcome you desire and call it your passion. And you’ll never have to engage in course correction or lose heart midway.

  3. Chris Yeh says:

    While following your passion is wonderful advice, it must be said that not everyone will be able to make a living at it.

    It may be true that there is a way to make a living off of any passion, but the size of that particular ecological niche might not be large enough to support all of the enthusiasts who wish to occupy it.

    For example, the number of people who would like to make a living at World of Warcraft is probably larger than the number who can possibly do so.

    Someone, at the end of the day, will be disappointed. Don’t knock the idea of punching a clock–at D.E. Shaw, we hired a lot of artists as receptionists and assistants–they got paid, and had the opportunity to pursue their interests in their off hours.

  4. khc says:

    I think the word for Tim is “polymath”. One of the coolest new words I’ve learned this year, and probably applicable here.

  5. globoterra says:

    If you’re an avid PS3 gamer, then you know the importance of saving your progress for future game play.
    Pls, help me!

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  10. jeanpotts says:

    when my passion become my livelihood then i dont want anybody to guide me
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  11. toni says:

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  12. Bill says:

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  14. frank says:

    ben,

    No doubt, it is a Fantastic article and i do agree with you about the risk of turning your passion or hobby into your primary income-generating activity but not everyone can prove it.
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