First aired on Q (24/01/13)
Self-help author Tim Ferriss has, by most estimations, led a pretty interesting life. A modern Renaissance man, he's an entrepreneur, a former champion in tango and kickboxing, speaks several languages, and has made millions by penning books The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body, which offer strategies to maximize efficiency when it comes to work life and physical health.
His latest book, The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Any Skill & Living the Good Life, is also about accelerating your performance, but this time through the narrative of Ferriss's own journey in learning how to cook, something that has intimidated him in the past.
"It is a bit odd that an anti-cook would write a cookbook, I suppose," Ferriss told Q host Jian Ghomeshi during a recent interview.
With thousands of food preparation techniques, types of equipment, and years of culinary tradition, learning to make meals from scratch for the first time can be a daunting prospect. In The 4-Hour Chef, Ferriss sought to break down the principles of cooking into essential building blocks. But he says the learning strategies in this book can be applied to mastering almost any subject, from athletics to languages.
"I chose food as the vehicle for doing that because I always feared cooking, found it inconvenient, found it extremely complicated, so I wanted to simplify all of that, and through my journey of learning to cook, explain all of these principles that apply to learning anything."
As part of his research, he travelled around the world, from Manhattan to Okinawa, from San Francisco to Calcutta, interviewing masters in their fields, whether the fields were sushi or chess. It's part of the Ferriss philosophy -- learn the most efficient and effective strategies from the best and then experiment yourself. Read his books and you'll find that Ferriss has a habit of subjecting himself to an endless variety of testing, from monitoring his body while attempting different diets to testing a sleep schedule that would allow some people to sleep no more than two total hours but function fairly normally. He said he became fascinated with self-experimentation at an early age. He loved the challenge of wrestling during high-school, but found himself at a physical disadvantage. Born prematurely, Ferriss said he always had issues with his left lung. He dedicated himself to learning more about the body to maximize his endurance and overcome his own physical disadvantages, through nutrition and technique.
Following high school, he would study neuroscience and later linguistics at Princeton University. He found himself struggling in his acquisition of languages, so he tried to apply the same principles of performance enhancement to academics. It worked for him. He's since achieved spoken and written fluency in several languages, including German, Japanese, and Spanish.
"I failed Spanish early on but now I speak all these languages. There's a method."