A.J. Jacobs: Self-Experimenter Extraordinaire

AJ Jacobs

“Calling it an experiment gives you permission to fail.”
– A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs (@ajjacobs) is a kindred guinea pig of self-experimentation who chronicles his shenanigans in books that seem to keep winding up as New York Times best sellers. The Know-It-All was about his quest to learn everything in the world. In The Year of Living Biblically, he tried to follow all the rules of the Bible as literally as possible. Drop Dead Healthy followed his well- (and ill-) advised experiments to become the healthiest person alive. My Life as an Experiment is about exactly what it sounds like, and It’s All Relative — which will be out in 2017 — will aim to connect all of humanity in one family tree.

A.J. is also the host of the new podcast Twice Removed, which takes a celebrity guest and introduces them to a surprise cousin they didn’t know they had. It could be one of their heroes, an old friend, a teacher, etc.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • What A.J.’s learned from his experiments
  • His creative process
  • Tipping points in his life
  • How he learned to love marketing
  • And much, much more.

I think you’ll have a blast with this one — I know I did. Please enjoy!


Want to hear another podcast with a human guinea pig— Listen to my conversation with Morgan Spurlock. In this episode, we discuss how Morgan made his own luck, builds rapport with people and gets them to open up, gets people to care about important issues, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last 2 years and now has more than $2.5B under management. In fact, some of my good investor friends in Silicon Valley have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you for free exactly the portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Or, as I would, you can set it and forget it. Well worth a few minutes: wealthfront.com/tim.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with A.J. Jacobs:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Twice Removed

Show Notes

  • How A.J. and I met. [06:25]
  • A.J. talks about his writing process. [08:10]
  • A.J. makes no apologies for being a day drinker. [12:05]
  • “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” – Millard Fuller [12:45]
  • How does A.J. bolster his own confidence? [14:26]
  • A.J. shares advice he got from George Clooney. [17:00]
  • How does A.J. cope with writer’s block? [19:16]
  • What experiments from The Year of Living Biblically have resulted in enduring life changes? [21:58]
  • How does A.J.’s wife deal with the life disruption surrounding his experiments? [28:20]
  • What A.J. learned from a brief foray into quantified-self life logging. [31:32]
  • A.J. once spent a month without lying as research into the Radical Honesty movement. How did that go? [34:21]
  • My own experiment with expressing gratitude to people from my past on a daily basis. [38:33]
  • On being kind to your older self. [44:01]
  • What experiments from Drop Dead Healthy have resulted in enduring life changes? [47:00]
  • Want to stop a bad behavior? Blackmail yourself. [48:44]
  • Strategic chutzpah, biblical slavery, and Jerry Falwell. [52:50]
  • What advice would A.J. give to someone entering the world of marriage and parenting? [56:16]
  • We discuss the different ways people we know are generous with ideas. [1:04:34]
  • How does A.J. choose his projects? [1:16:28]
  • How did A.J. get involved in genealogy for his current project? [1:19:43]
  • Why did A.J. decide to do a podcast? [1:23:28]
  • How did A.J. learn to love marketing? [1:29:16]
  • I explain why Tools of Titans is the first book I enjoyed writing (and how I’ve learned to love marketing). [1:32:57]
  • A.J. talks about throwing the biggest worldwide family reunion. [1:37:30]
  • Has any experiment turned out to be a total dud? [1:38:42]
  • Are there any memorable outtakes from The Year of Living Biblically that didn’t make it into the final draft? [1:39:55]
  • Never underestimate the entertainment value of well-placed humiliation. [1:46:31]
  • The first person who comes to mind when A.J. hears the word “successful.” [1:48:59]
  • On ethical cannibalism, free will, and our reality’s place in the multiverse. [1:50:12]
  • Most gifted books. [1:53:53]
  • Recent purchase of $100 or less that had a positive impact on A.J.’s life. [1:54:46]
  • A.J.’s morning (and evening) rituals. [1:55:59]
  • If A.J. could give a TED Talk on something for which he’s not well known, what would it cover? [1:56:56]
  • Bad advice commonly heard. [1:58:24]
  • What would A.J.’s billboard say? [2:00:30]
  • What advice would A.J.’s 82-year-old self give him? [2:02:05]
  • One of A.J.’s favorite failures. [2:03:43]
  • A.J. talks about expensive haircuts, encyclopedias, and his first book. [2:05:45]
  • Suggestions, recommendations, and parting thoughts. [2:10:00]

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