Better, Faster, Stronger

By Mead, Rebecca | The New Yorker, September 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

Better, Faster, Stronger


Mead, Rebecca, The New Yorker


A few months ago, Timothy Ferriss, a self-help author, threw himself a party in San Francisco, where he lives. Officially, it was not a celebration for his most recent book, "The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman," which came out in December and is already in its eleventh printing. In the book, Ferriss tells his readers, "Hack yourself," and presents them with hundreds of "scientific rules for redesigning the human body": bathing in ice to lose weight, eating organic almond butter on celery sticks to treat insomnia. Nor was the party meant to mark the enduring success of his first book, "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich," which is still on the Times' business best-seller list after four years. That book counsels readers to limit their newspaper reading to the headlines visible from vending machines and to outsource the management of their calendars and finances to a remote personal assistant in Bangalore.

As Ferriss took the stage at the Broadway Studios, a club on a seedy strip in North Beach, he explained that the party was intended to encourage cross-pollination among members of the many social and business spheres he inhabits. "Everyone here is extremely awesome in their own way, but we all have our own echo chambers," Ferriss announced over a microphone, as his guests milled around the dance floor, drinking cocktails with names like Sex Machine and Ubermensch. Ferriss went on, "Everyone here rocks, and I want you to go out of your comfort zone and talk to someone you don't know."

I didn't know anyone, so I went out of my comfort zone to talk to a young man named Courtney Reum, who told me that he had left a job at Goldman Sachs to start a company that makes and sells Veev--an organic, kosher, gluten-free, carbon-neutral acai liquor, bottled in recycled glass, with labels printed with soy inks. I also met Tracy Reifkind, a fitness instructor, who is featured in "The 4-Hour Body"; she recounted losing more than a hundred pounds by swinging kettlebells, a technique endorsed by Ferriss, and told me, "I'm the Jazzercise of kettlebells." There was Mike Geary, who has a Web site called truthaboutabs.com, which mints money; he lives in Vail, Colorado, and begins every day by checking the ski report. I discovered that Reid Mihalko, who runs a sex-advice Web site called reidaboutsex.com--"What Tim Ferriss does for stuff, I do for sex"--has incredibly warm hands.

M. J. Kim, a publicist, fondly described Ferriss as "the smartest self-promoter I know." Shortly after they met, Kim recalled, Ferriss asked her if he could piggyback the launch of "The 4-Hour Workweek" onto a birthday party that she was throwing for herself. "It was ridiculous," Kim said. "While everyone was having cocktails and singing 'Happy Birthday,' he was handing out copies of his book. It was a case of 'Who is that guy?' " Ferriss's close friend Chris Ashenden was also at the party. They first met a few years ago, in Buenos Aires; Ashenden, a New Zealander, is immortalized in Ferriss's work as the Kiwi. ("The 4-Hour Body" notes that the Kiwi "had competed in elite-level rugby in New Zealand but was equally proud, I soon learned, of applying his B.S.E. in exercise physiology to perfecting the female posterior.") "Tim's awesome!" Ashenden shouted to me over the booming sound system, before turning to speak into the ear of an attractive young woman upon whom his exercise regimen would be redundant.

Ferriss, who is thirty-three years old, is almost impossibly affable, with a square jaw, twinkling blue eyes, and a tanned, well-shaped skull that beams through his close-cropped fair hair. At the party, he bounded around the room, dispensing vigorous hugs to the women and grasping the men by the deltoid muscle. A tall woman with long dark hair, who was wearing a black cocktail dress with a plunging neckline and high-heeled red shoes, approached him. "Hi, Tim, I'm Amy," she said. …

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