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Tools of Titans - Tim Ferriss

State > Story > Strategy

I learned this from my first Tony Robbins event, Unleash the Power Within (UPW), which Tony invited me to after our first podcast. Perhaps more than any other lesson from Tony, I’ve thought about this the most in the last year. If you were to look at my daily journal right now, you’d see that I’ve scribbled “STATE > STORY > STRATEGY”at the top of each page for the next several weeks. It’s a reminder to check the boxes in that order.

Tony believes that, in a lowered emotional state, we only see the problems, not solutions. Let’s say you wake up feeling tired and overwhelmed. You sit down to brainstorm strategies to solve your issues, but it comes to naught, and you feel even worse afterwards. This is because you started in a negative state, then attempted strategy but didn’t succeed (due to tunnel vision on the problems), and then likely told yourself self-defeating stories (e.g., “I always do this. Why am I so wound up I can’t even think straight?”). To fix this, he encourages you to “prime” your STATE first. The biochemistry will help you proactively tell yourself an enabling STORY. Only then do you think on STRATEGY, as you’ll see the options instead of dead ends.

“Priming” my state is often as simple as doing 5 to 10 push-ups or getting 20 minutes of sun exposure. Even though I do my most intense exercise at night, I’ve started doing 1-2 minutes of calisthenics - or kettlebell swings - in the morning to set my state for the day. Tony’s own priming process is included below.

I now often ask myself, “Is this really a problem I need to think my way out of? Or is it possible I just need to fix my biochemistry?” I’ve wasted a lot of time journaling on “problems” when I just needed to eat breakfast sooner, do 10 push-ups, or get an extra hour of sleep. Sometimes, you think you have to figure out your life’s purpose, but your really just need some macadamia nuts and a cold fucking shower.



Upon waking, Tony immediately goes into his priming routine, which is intended to produce a rapid change in his physiology: “To me, if you want a primetime life, you’ve got to prime daily.” There are many tools that I’ve seen Tony use over the years, several of which I’ve adopted for myself, including:


  • Cold-water plunge (I use a quick cold shower, which could be just 30 to 60 seconds)

  • Tony follows this with breathing exercises. He does 3 sets of 30 reps. His seated technique is similar to the rapid nasal “breath of fire” in yoga, but he adds in rapid overhead extension of the arms on the inhale, with the elbows dropping down the rib cage on the exhale.

  • Alternative: “Breath walking.” This is vintage Tony, but I still use it quite often when traveling. Simply walk for a few minutes, using a breathing cycle of 4 short inhales through the nose, then 4 short exhales through the mouth.


Following something like the above, Tony does 9 to 10 minutes of what some might consider meditation. To him, however, the objective is very different: Its about cueing and prompting enabling emotions for the rest of the day. His 9 to 10 minutes are broken into thirds. Here is an abbreviated synopsis:

The first 3 minutes: “Feeling totally grateful for three things. I make sure that one of them is very, very simple: the ind on my face, the reflection of the clouds that I just saw. But I don’t just think gratitude. I let gratitude fill my soul, because when you’re grateful, we all know there’s no anger. It’s impossible to be angry and grateful simultaneously. When you’re grateful, there is no fear. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously.”

The second 3 minutes: “Total focus on feeling their presence of God, if you will, however you want to language that for yourself. But this inner presence coming in, and feeling it heal everything in my body, in my mind, my emotions, me relationships, my finances. I see it as solving anything that needs to be solved. I experience the strengthening of my gratitude, of my conviction, of my passion...”

The last 3 minutes: “Focusing on three things that I’m going to make happen, my ‘three to thrive.’...See it as though its already been done, feel the emotions, etc...

“And, as Ive always said,there’s no excuse not to do 10 minutes. If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

This reminded me of something I’ve heard from many adept mediators (such as Russell Simmons) in various forms: “If you don’t have 20 minutes to delve into yourself through meditation, then that means you really need 2 hours.”

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