The Four-Hour Body is not the most brilliant writing by any standard, but sure is entertaining and captivating at times. Tim Ferris will shake your assumptions at least in once, if you have the patience to read the whole book. He put his body and his will power to the test and in the process he learned quite a bit through personal research or through talking to experts from around the world.
I am sceptical about many of his methods. He is young and some of his experiments need time to prove if they are right with bodies that don’t benefit from the regenerative powers of youth. His tendency to exaggerate it is downright dangerous – do not try this at home. However, he has a point: you have to force issues to make progress, and you have to ignore the dominant beliefs that hold us stuck in an inconvenient position and dare to try something different. I like one of his quotes: “Motion is created by the destruction of balance”- Leonardo da Vinci.
I was about to decide I read enough about dieting when my attention was captured by this chapter: Ultra-endurance: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks (well there are other chapters that are attention grabbers there, such as 15-minute Female Orgasm, Sex-machine and Doubling Sperm Count). I read a few pages where he describes the painful training required to reach the capacity to run 50K. Running 400m sprints and doing weight training are tough mental tests, because you need to have the will power to smash the dislike of body pain in anticipation, before the massive pain occurs. This is the biggest barrier that you must overcome before getting to see how capable you are. I recall the story of someone who visited a mountainous region in Mexico where villagers could run even at very old age without running out of breath. He almost died trying to run a hill and a valley at the beginning in his attempt to keep up with a local. But then they told him he will need to do this for a few weeks and he will be alright. He did it and he could not believe how easy the running became for him and how fantastic was the feeling of freedom that he felt in his new physical shape.
The science of sports has been taken to dizzying heights. Around the world sport training scientific centres prepare their athletes for Olympic and pushing the performance barriers higher and higher. When you read The Four-Hour Body and go through all those scientific details you are at times intimidated (or at least I was) by the depth of specialised knowledge accumulated over the years. It is quite amazing. It is striking how much we know about chemistry, mechanics and biology of the body, robotics, and genetics with spill-over developments in prosthetics, health and performance management. All of this is well documented, tested, measured for everyone to see.
Why is it that similar efforts are not done in other areas of human performance such as learning, creativity or writing? Is it possible to do writing performance improvement similar to Tim Ferris’s method of training for 50K running? Why not? Say, write in short bursts every day, for 12 weeks and then write a book in one go. Has anyone done research on improving creative performance in a systematic way in such form that can be used by average person? There is no Four-Hour Mind book or equivalent out there.
The difference between sports and intellectual endeavours is that sports are a popular business that pays the winners handsomely. It is a huge social entertaining enterprise that has been with humanity since the beginning of its time. Writing is a solitary journey in which only a few excel. The difference between sports and science is demonstrated by this: on Sky News you have half an hour Sportsline four times a day and no science news programs. This is a big blind spot in the way we set out our priorities.