December 05, 2016 at 07:12 PM EST

Tim Ferriss knows a little something about the habits of successful people (himself, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body, included) which is one of the reasons millions of listeners tune in to his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. 

In Ferriss’ new book, Tools of Titans, he’s collected highlights from his podcast interviewees, as well as unaired tidbits and unheard interview subjects, so readers can delve into the ways a bevy of different people have found success. Below, EW presents an exclusive preview of some of the best advice and stories from Ferriss’ celebrity guests, from musician Amanda Palmer‘s trick to successful busking, to Wild author Cheryl Strayed‘s genius writing prompts.

To pre-order Tools of Titans before it hits shelves Dec. 6, head here.

Excerpts from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Mike Birbiglia


“I met [President Obama] 2 years ago, when my wife was pregnant. Our whole thing was, whenever we meet someone who we know doesn’t care about meeting us, my wife and I always try and come up with a trick question that throws them off. They kind of have to answer, or have to think about it. I give this advice to people. If you ever see Jimmy Fallon on the street, don’t say, ‘I love The Tonight Show!’ Just say something like: ‘What do you think of kiwi?’ and he won’t be able to not be like, ‘I love kiwi!’ Talk to people about a thing they didn’t think they were going to talk about. Then, next thing you know, you’re talking to Jimmy Fallon about kiwi and you’ll have that for your life.

“So our thing with Obama, because my wife was 4 months pregnant but we hadn’t told anybody yet, was ‘Why don’t we tell him you’re pregnant?’ So when we get to the front, I say, ‘Mr. President, this is my wife, Jen. She’s newly pregnant but don’t tell anyone.’ And he couldn’t help it. The president of the United States couldn’t help but say, ‘Well, am I first to know?’ And my wife says yes. She asks, ‘Do you have any parenting advice?’ And he says, ‘Well, get some sleep.’ And we’re like, ‘Ha-ha’ because he’s the president. It wasn’t that funny, comically, but he’s like your boss times a million. But then he got better, because he goes, ‘No, actually, I’ve got something. When you bring him home, the poo . . .’ The president said ‘poo,’ and the moment he said ‘poo,’ I thought, ‘This is the greatest day of my life. I could die right now and I’d be fine.’ He says, ‘When you bring him home, the poo doesn’t smell. It doesn’t smell like adult poo. Adult poo smells bad.’ Then he looked at me for affirmation, and I was like, ‘Absolutely, Mr. President; adult poo does indeed smell terrible. Thank you for inviting me to the Poo Seminar 2015.’

“And he goes, ‘And when you bring him home, babies crave structure in their eating and in their sleeping. Breastfeeding doesn’t always work out right away. There’s going to be a little bit of wonky. Don’t freak out. And if the sleeping doesn’t work out right away, don’t freak out.’ And he paused and he thought about it and he goes, ‘That’s actually some pretty good advice.’ He complimented his own advice. I’m telling you, the best thing to do is give people questions they’re not expecting.” (p. 568-569)

Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

F—, F—, F—

I visited the production of Neighbors 2 in Atlanta to observe Seth, Evan, and their team in action. One day, I sat in on a writers’ room brainstorm… Evan and others said “f—” or “f—ing” at least once a sentence, and it all went on the screen. I asked afterward, “Doesn’t it take a lot of time to polish the script?” to which Evan responded with a smile: “You can always de-f— the script later.” The important thing was to brainstorm freely and not self-edit. That came afterward. (p. 532)

Amanda Palmer


“I treated every single patron like a ten-second love affair.” (p. 521)

Edward Norton


“If you’re lucky, you have someone when you’re young who doesn’t talk down to you, who speaks to you as a serious person and exhorts you to take something seriously, to take work seriously. If a person does that in the right way, you feel elevated. As a young person, you feel like someone is saying to you, ‘Hey! You want to be taken seriously? Then take things seriously. Do the work, you know? Don’t coast, you know?’” (p. 561)

Jamie Foxx


Jamie did nearly a dozen impersonations during our interview. Here’s one tip: “Start with Kermit the Frog, then add some swagger, and you got Sammy Davis Jr.” (p. 606)

B.J. Novak


“If Will Smith isn’t in a movie for 3 years, you’re not walking around saying, ‘Where’s Will Smith?’ Nobody’s paying attention to anyone else at all. You think everyone is, but they’re not. So take as long as you want if you’re talented. You’ll get their attention again if you have a reason to.” (p. 383)

Rainn Wilson


For those of you who’d love to kick me in the face, Rainn saved you the trouble. Just search “Rainn Wilson kicking Tim Ferriss in the face.” Long story. (p. 544)

Cheryl Strayed


Try one for two pages of longhand writing. Go for uninterrupted flow, and don’t stop to edit. Step one is to generate without judging. Chances are that you’ll surprise yourself.

  • Write about being loved.
  • Write about what you were really thinking.
  • Write about how you found your way back.
  • Write about the kindness of strangers.
  • Write about why you could not do it.
  • Write about why you did. (p. 516)

Excerpted from TOOLS OF TITANS: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss. Copyright © 2017 by Tim Ferriss. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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