A Killer Lesson from My Workout with Tim Ferriss: Why Most Conversations Suck + A Challenge for You

A Killer Lesson from My Workout with Tim Ferriss: Why Most Conversations Suck + A Challenge for You

Tim Ferriss Ask What People Do For Fun

“If you can clearly see your path, you can be sure it’s someone else’s.”


Written by Scott Dinsmore

Average Read Time: 4.7 Minutes

Last week I did a kettlebell workout with Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta. It was bad ass to say the least. I think I’m still sore…

During our hour and a half  there’s one topic that never came up:

What do you do for work?

Surprising? Anyone who’s spent time with Tim’s stuff knows that he hates that line of questioning and usually avoids it at all costs. (by the way his 4-Hour Work Week will change your life, and just today I got my pre-release copy of his new 4-Hour Body…can’t wait.)

I know, job talk is most of societies typical conversation starter – say at an event, party, bar or dinner.

It’s usually the easy opener. But have you thought about what you’re really showing when you ask that? It says that you care more about their title and position than you do about them as a person. Is that really how you feel? I doubt it. Are you really more interested in what they do for work than what they do to enjoy life and share it with others? I doubt it.

So stop asking. Start showing that you actually care about people, not titles.

Lately I’ve been trying something out that’s been yielding some awesome results. I want to challenge you to try the same.

I have gotten so tired of this mindless questioning that I try to avoid it all together. It’s a fun game to play with a new group. See how long you can carry on the conversation about something other than what they do for work. Avoid the topic as much as possible. And then when asked, respond with what you do for enjoyment.

A lot of times when asked ‘what do I do’, I respond with something like, “I try to spend as much time exploring as possible. I love adventures and testing limits with people. I also am crazy about learning, reading and helping people live life on their terms. What about you?”

They look at me dumbfounded and often give an awkward laugh, trying to get across something like ‘well that’s all fine and great but what about what you do for money?”

Tim learned to avoid the conversation altogether by answering that he was a drug dealer (since he had a nutritional supplement company, this was true). That was the gut test. It either ended the conversation altogether or abruptly changed it to something each of them actually cared about.

So what did we talk about during our kettlebell session? We covered topics on nutrition, vigorous exercise, our deadlift max (Tim’s a big deadlifter I guess), writing and fun web projects we’re working on – all topics we were intensly passionate about. What a novel idea.

Begin asking “So what do you do for enjoyment?”

This is my challenge to you. Instead of immediately putting the focus on career and work, it puts it on what we all care so much about anyway–our passions and enjoyment. Notice the immediate change in energy, posture and overall physiology. Some amazing things immediately happen when the focus is here:

  • It takes the pressure off hyping your job up in some big (and often exaggerated) way to impress others
  • It gives people a topic they actually feel comfortable and confident talking about
  • It gets to the core of who a person is
  • You will have almost instant rapport with them

The Fear of Answering “What do you do?” is what Drives Incongruent Decisions.

Deep down, most of us are terrified to answer this question because the world has been trained to judge the response. We naturally give more credence to a big shot job, salary or title than we do to a struggling writer, musician or educator. This is B.S!

It’s also a big part of why people are scared to do what they love – fear of how they will answer “What do you do” and that they will be judged.

If we want more people to do what makes them come alive, we must take the pressure off of sounding like some big shot asshole. So you’re a partner at a law firm. Does your life have a purpose? Do you enjoy yourself? Those are the questions worth asking.

The answer will eventually be the same – Become a Life Entrepreneur.

You are much more than what you do. More than an accountant, CFO, lawyer or waitress. You are the impact you make in the world and the enjoyment you and others experience as a result. This is what people actually care about. They are just too scared to ask. Do us all a favor and switch the focus.

The easiest solution is doing what you enjoy inside and outside the office. Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek call this Life Entrepreneurship. For many this requires a significant shift. But it’s a shift we all have the power to make. The Beginner’s Guide to Being Congruent is a good place to start. So is Jonathan Mead’s Reclaim Your Dreams.

For inspiration, nothing beats spending time around people who are walking the talk. They do what they love and the world is better as a result. Simple as that. Some of my favorites are:

  • Corbett Barr– Digital nomad dedicated to helping people build successful web businesses through Think Traffic and achieve location independence through Free Pursuits.
  • Jonathan Mead – Dead set on helping you find your purpose and be Paid to Exist at Illuminated Mind.
  • Mars Dorian – Personal branding and influence coach, in the process of going global with Spread Your Influence.
  • Tyler Tervooren – The founder of Advanced Riskology, dedicated to building an awesome life through taking calculated risks.
  • Everett Bogue – Saving the world through Far Beyond the Stars and The Art of Minimalist Living.
  • Maren Kate – Runs Escaping the 9 to 5. Enough said.
  • Leo Babauta – Made a living of not consuming crap and teaching people about simplicity and minimalism through ZenHabits.

“So, what do you do for enjoyment?” in Action

A few weeks ago I tried this out at an entrepreneur’s speaker group I work with in Santa Barbara. I walked up to a woman who I knew was a real estate agent. I doubted that was the most interesting thing about her so I asked “So, what do you do for enjoyment?”  She first looked at me confused. Then she said “well I like to paint.” For the next 30 minutes we talked about how her passion was creating oil on canvas depictions of scenes around Santa Barbara and elsewhere.

I started to ask if she ever sells them and she shyly explained that she’d made about $10,000 selling her paintings this year! Are you kidding me? It was music to my ears. Not only did we get right to her passion but it turns out she’s made a business out of it. Emily’s work really is amazing and worth checking out at her Zen Painting Gallery.

Change Your Questioning and Change the World

This line of questioning is incredibly powerful. Take the “So, what do you do for enjoyment” challenge. It will seriously make the world a better place.

For those living a congruent life, the answer to the two questions will be the same. The more focus we put on enjoyment, the more the world will join us in the party.

That’s freedom.

So what do you do for enjoyment? How have you or could you make it your career? Please let us know in the comments section below. Even one sentence goes a long way.

Other Resources to Help You along the Way

The Beginner’s Guide to Being Congruent

Reclaim Your Dreams: An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms

Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives