Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Tim Ferriss Clones and the BS of Capitalism

Photo Credit: Anne Helmond
Photo Credit: Anne Helmond

Last night I watched a movie called Nightcrawler. It was such a good movie I actually watched it twice in a row. I’m not going to spoil anything, but Jake Gyllenhaal plays a character that finds success with three tactics.

  1. Rigorous research and planning
  2. Persistence
  3. Taking calculated risks

Now, feel free to formulate your own opinions of his (brilliant) character, but I admire a few of his qualities, even if they were questionable. Sorry to tip toe around that one, but this movie is so easy to spoil. Go see it. Right now.

That movie also made me realize there are a ton of people I see like this online. If you’re a blogger and have ever searched for tips on how to grow your audience, you’re sure to have come across this type. Or maybe you just want to make money online. You know this guy.

The Tim Ferriss clone.

These are a bunch of people with (seemingly) heaps of knowledge on how to earn money, drive traffic, or whatever else you want. They give you a bit of (seemingly) useful knowledge to show you they’re smart, but it’s never enough for you to gain some real insight. Not for free anyway. It’s odd. It’s almost like paying to learn how you were tricked to pay for information so you can do the same to others.

Capitalism is a mother f**ker.

Now mind you, this isn’t ALWAYS the tactic, but as someone who is searching for a means of earning money independently, I see a ton of these guys around. They’re sharks patiently swimming in the water, waiting for SEO to bring you within striking range. These guys all have strong, direct speech and come off a the guy who is care free and wants to share his secrets.

Remember Lost? That show was selling secrets too. We all know how that one ended.

I bought the 4 Hour Workweek a while ago and it’s insane to see how many people have adopted this methodology and are trying make knowledge a commodity. Truth be told, I’m writing this out of frustration because I’m a struggling blogger whose money is going toward starting a new life with my fiancé. I can’t bother with your class, even if it’s worth more than the $199 you’re pitching.

Great. Now we have knowledge poverty. If you read my blog (hopefully you do), you know I’m anti-establishment. I see a system taking shape right before our eyes. I’ll break it down like this:

  1. Everything starts with statistics and research. This separates success from failure. Do you think successful poker players just win by luck? That’d be silly. They know statistics. It gives them an edge in staying ahead of competition. People who take this seriously are (theoretically) always observing data. Even data gathered from the people paying to get their information.
  2. Most people suck at gathering valid statistics. I certainly do. A lot of people have ideas, but knowing key statistics makes you a valuable resource because most people just want to be told how they can win the game. But you can never “win” the game, because the game never ends. You can only increase your odds of not being a loser.
  3. Selling knowledge means you are selling people the opportunity to increase their odds. But the people doing the selling will never sell everything. They’ll sell enough and become experts in their fields because data is always changing and they are likely better at gathering stats that will keep them successful. There will always be an audience that just wants to know and some of them become repeat customers. Knowledge is power after all.

I kid you not, Nightcrawler made me think about this in an entirely different way. Now I may be wrong here, but it seems to me anyone can achieve the same if you’re smart enough. But I’m not smart enough and this market of selling knowledge is quickly becoming flooded anyway. Especially for kinda-sorta vague specialties like marketing experts.

My problem is if you never learn how to truly gather and analyze stats, you’ll never stay ahead of the curve. This holds true for EVERYTHING in business. Stats are huge. Stats are just as important to your blog growth as it is to corporations starting a new line of products. But for us common folk, we either have to learn it, pay/partner with someone who can gather stats for you. You can get services, but you still need context for numbers. How does this relate to your business? How does it relate to emerging markets? You can do so much, which is why I’m stayed up all night studying web analytics and stat interpretation. It’s amazing how incorrectly I’ve been looking at this whole thing. Now I get why data is so important and why everyone and their advertising mama wants access to it. They want that advantage. This totally relates to capitalism as a whole.

Capitalism thrives on advantages and these things run deep. Wealth, race, gender, sexuality, and nationality all have different advantages and disadvantages depending on where you fall. The internet isn’t perfect, but it definitely helps to negate some of those categories as factors. I mean, the thought of a random Jamaican from Paterson, NJ becoming a freelance writer in the 1960’s is ridiculous.

But stats and numbers are powerful. We have the world we have today partially because we have companies that study us and market toward the things to which we gravitate. That’s why we have trends. But if you never understand the science behind why things become trends and jumping on markets before it becomes flooded. Essentially, most of us don’t understand our own data. We have pictures and posts and all manner of information out there and few of us truly realize how powerful that is. Powerful enough for me to study. I hate studying, but I want to learn this, but not for the reasons you may think.

I want to figure out a way to make stat interpretation easy. Or maybe a way to give people a way of seeing how their data is relevant to companies and the world at large. There’s got to be a cool way to spread awareness on this.

Actually, that sounds like an awesome idea. Anyone want to help me build that? I can’t pay anything, but there’s no profit in this idea anyway. I’m willing to partner with whoever actually cares about this idea. I’m not smart enough to know all the ins and outs of what I want, but I’m a quick learner when motivated and there’s a fire brewing in my belly.

In the short term, I’m totally going to put this theory to test to see if stats and data analysis is the real game changer I think it is when it comes to earning money. That’s more so I have a steady flow of income while I’m over in Thailand with my beautiful future wife. Other than that, I want to partner with some people who can make this happen. Or hell, steal this idea if you want. Just do it for the right reasons. We have enough people trying to profit from us.

Hit me up in the comments if you have ideas to contribute. I’m going to talk to a couple smart people I know and return with more thoughts later, but I urge you all to learn more about data analysis and statistics. I know I will be.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 2)


  1. Hey I just read this and I think you should check this class out: http://bigdatauniversity.com/bdu-wp/bdu-course/hadoop-fundamentals-i-version-3/

    It’s a ton to learn (especially if you’re like me and don’t know much Java) but I really think that being an independent data analyst with Hadoop in your toolbox would allow you to make a good (or even kind of ridiculous) amount of money remotely. Amazon recently started offering a specialized “Elastic MapReduce” cluster service that you only pay for what you use so you wouldn’t have to worry about setting up your own infrastructure to process the data. You can also have people load it directly into Amazon’s S3 platform so you wouldn’t have to worry about collection/data security.

    Let me know if you’re interested, the best way to get in touch would probably be Facebook.

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