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Tim Ferriss breaks this Law all the time. So how does he get away with it, and to such great effect? The best magicians, artists and leaders all hide the intensity of their effort from the world’s view, so that when they’re on stage everything they do seems deeply impressive. And then there’s Tim, who specialises in deconstructing the process behind everything he does…

Jon and Dre take on the Ferriss Paradox and much more in Law 30, pondering how we can avoid the danger of seeming to try too hard; how it’s possible to share workspace with people and still observe this Law; and why people get so damn angry if you fix their problems ‘too quickly’. Law 30 is all about finding the balance between making things look effortless, but not unnoticeable; so what do we put on stage and what do we keep behind the scenes?

Dre reveals his strangely anti-addictive personality traits, claims that all of Apple’s best products are the result of taking psychedelics, and (yes, you guessed it) plans to take over the world. Jon, meanwhile, wonders how to observe the Law when it comes to publishing research with footnotes; should we just drop them all, or do we still need to see the working? He then happily rants about the bullshit that is the peer review process. Dre becomes incensed by how people don’t Google things to find out if the stories they read are true or not, while Jon belligerently refuses to waste time reading the news at all. And then they bicker over whether ‘artificious’ is a word. (To Jon’s disgust, Dre wins this one, although it’s archaic…)

They also consider the ways technology will soon take care of our desires before we even know we have them, and what that might do to us. Will we all become spoilt children, unwilling or unable to work for anything? Or will we manage to create ever more elaborate excuses to avoid getting down to work?

This episode includes:

  • How to balance getting help from other people with the need to conceal how hard you’re working
  • When you should reveal the magic trick and why
  • Mastering the art of the spontaneous
  • How our problems swell to fill the lives we’re living
  • Houdini’s secrets and what they can teach us
  • Why people don’t like paying for things you can perform quickly
  • Adding performance to your art so people value it more
  • Don’t end up making things look like a pre-rendered videogame sequence
  • Should you go on a news diet?
  • Why it’s essential to always keep a sense of humour about yourself


Mentioned in the episode:

Challenge: Don’t ‘show the working’; practise sprezzatura! If you’re complimented by someone, don’t do yourself down; remain enigmatic and continue cultivating a sense of mystery.

Be silly. Be kind. Be weird.

Join us as we continue our 48 Laws of Power review, exploring Robert Greene’s provocative and compelling book, in which he lays bare the history, practice, psychology, and philosophies of power that ultimately shape all human relations. Often seen as a handbook for the ‘modern Machiavelli’, we take a closer look, beyond the hyperbole, and discuss how understanding and implementing these Laws can actually enrich your life personally, professionally and spiritually.

Jon and Dre aim to get to the heart of each of the Laws, grapple with their sometimes disturbingly amoral nature, and discuss what the Laws mean in everyday life (often revealing their own experiences – good and bad – when they’ve either observed or transgressed them).


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