Resources Part I: Tim Ferriss and DiSSS

Tim show.jpeg

To those familiar to the self-help and life-hacking world, Timothy Ferriss needs little introduction. However, for those of you who don’t, Ferriss is known for many different titles including angel investor, public speaker, entrepreneur and all-around Renaissance man. In addition, he is also the author of several best-selling books that range from lifestyle design (The 4-hour Workweek), entrepreneurship (Tools of the Titans) to fitness (The 4-hour Body) and even cooking (The 4-hour Chef).

It was while reading Ferriss’s books that I learned about the 80/20 principle (aka the Pareto Principle), which of course led to reading Richard Koch’s book of the same name. I’m very thankful for Ferriss mainly because I doubt I would have developed the same love for 80/20 from Koch’s book alone. Ferriss’s books are a lot more applicable to everyday life and frankly much more entertaining to read than Koch, mainly due to the fact that Tim experiments using the principle in just about every manner imaginable.


While I’m not the biggest fan of Ferriss’s writing style, public speaking or even his personality, I can’t help but be enamored by his approach to just about everything he does. Whether it’s language learning, business or martial arts, he has an amazing ability to concentrate solely on the activities that matter and discard those in which he deems unimportant.

The concepts in The 4 Hour Workweek began to save me from being the complete workaholic I had been since childhood and even helped me with my personal and professional relationships. I began reevaluating my processes to nearly everything I do and started to make distinct differentiations between being effective versus merely being efficient. More importantly however, it was in the first few chapters of The 4 Hour Chef that I learned about Ferriss’s DiSSS Method.

Table taken from Todoist

Table taken from Todoist

The initials of DiSSS stand for these four steps:

  • Deconstruction: "What are the minimum learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should be starting with?"
  • Selection: "Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?"
  • Sequencing: "In what order should I learn the blocks?”
  • Stakes: "How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?”

Right away I saw how nearly all of the steps of this acronym could be applied to music learning. What I truly fell in love with about Ferriss’s model was the simplicity. Breaking down any process into four simple steps gave a constant reminder to keep things concise and effective, all while preventing many of the perils of overwhelm and/or distraction by concentrating on meaningless minutiae.

I also began to see 80/20 relationships in the works of other music authors/educators and realized that many of my best learning techniques already incorporated many of these ideas as well. I decided to experiment using these various techniques on myself, much like Ferriss does, to see if the DiSSS method could indeed be an effective system in which to learn new and foreign styles of music. For those interested in learning more about the 80/20 principle, be sure to click on the link to Wikipedia and check out The various books by Tim Ferriss and Richard Koch. Thank you for reading and see you on the next one.