Books I’ve Loved — Seth Godin and Esther Perel (#402)

Photo credit for Seth: Brian Bloom

Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to sit down with world-class performers of all different types—from startup founders and investors to chess champions to Olympic athletes. This episode, however, is an experiment and part of a shorter series I’m doing called “Books I’ve Loved.” I’ve invited some amazing past guests, close friends, and new faces to share their favorite books—the books that have influenced them, changed them, and transformed them for the better. I hope you pick up one or two new mentors—in the form of books—from this new series and apply the lessons in your own life.

Seth Godin (@thisissethsblog) is the author of 19 bestselling books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the way ideas spread, marketing, strategic quitting, leadership, and—most of all—challenging the status quo in all areas. His books include LinchpinTribesThe DipPurple Cow, This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See, and What to Do When it’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn).

He was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame in 2013 and has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “Seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world.

Seth is also the founder of the altMBA, an intense four-week online leadership and management workshop.

Esther Perel (@estherperel) is a psychotherapist and the New York Times bestselling author of Mating in Captivity, which has been translated into 26 languages, and The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.

The New York Times called her the most important game-changer in sexuality and relational health since Dr. Ruth.

Her TED talks on maintaining desire and rethinking infidelity have more than 17 million views, and she’s tested and been exposed to everything imaginable in 34 years of running her private therapy practice in New York City.

On her podcast Where Should We Begin?, Esther brings you into her office to listen to real-life couples therapy sessions, and her newest Spotify project, How’s Work?, brings lessons from couples therapy to the corner office.


Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, StitcherCastbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#402: Books I've Loved — Seth Godin and Esther Perel

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Want to listen to the first episode of “Books I’ve Loved”? — Listen to it here, in which I share some of my must-read selections. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#400: Books I’ve Loved — Tim’s Four Must-Read Books

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Seth Godin:

Website | Seth’s Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | altMBA | The Marketing Seminar

Seth’s previous appearances on the podcast: 343, 177, 138

  • Connect with Esther Perel:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

Esther’s previous appearances on the show: 241, 271



The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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10 Replies to “Books I’ve Loved — Seth Godin and Esther Perel (#402)”

  1. I am the one outlier in a sea of gushing praise for Dr. Perel.

    She is brilliant, persuasive, a true thought leader, and there is so much that is brilliant in her books and her work… but on her main points for which she is famous, she is simply wrong.

    Her map or relationships has many sticky ideas that connect to observed reality, but it centers on a logical fallacy. And everyone wants to overlook that fallacy, because so many people have felt the pain of erotic death in their relationships, and her ideas absolve them of responsibility because, “you can desire what you already possess.”

    The fallacy is that connection and intimacy are antithetical to eroticism. In fact, they are simply different dimensions. It’s like saying something salty cannot be sweet. But, of course, things can be both or neither. Her compelling observation, that we have all seen for ourselves, is that most often, as couples become more intimate, they lose intimacy. That is simply NOT causal, but merely coincidental.

    Over and over again in her talks and in her books, Dr. Perel states that playfulness, freedom, and unselfconsciousness are inversely correlated with intimacy. But this simply isn’t close to true. Some couples have neither. Some once had one and then the other. Some couples once had both and then had neither. And some have both and maintain both (I know many, including my parents and my own relationship, and many of the couples I coach… and you might know some too).

    Over and over again, Dr Perel also equates closeness, intimacy, stability, and security with neediness, insecurity, surveillance, and lack of autonomy. Again, this is just not factual.

    It is true that sometimes when someone has an insecure attachment style that they will exhibit insecurity and neediness in PURSUIT of closeness and intimacy. It is also true that often couples who have been together for a long time try to keep each other in small boxes and try to define them by “who they’ve always been,” instead of related to them with the alive curiosity of who they are becoming.

    Neither of these constitute intimacy or closeness, but only the habitual veneer of intimacy.

    Of course neediness, insecurity, and possessiveness, and depriving a person of their autonomy kills eroticism! But if one examines this with only a tiny bit of critical thinking before jumping on Dr. Perel’s bandwagon, it becomes obvious that these things are not funded by intimacy and closeness, but are antithetical to authentic intimacy and closeness!

    I have a great deal of admiration and respect for much of her thought leadership, and the brilliance of her mind, but this motif in her theories is simply flawed, and a disservice to couples who try to shoe-horn their emotions into her map.

    Her clever metaphors like “a flame needs air,” or a “spark needs a gap,” are ludicrously mis-directional, unless you pretend that metaphors are literal or universally applicable.

    Sex is not literally a flame, nor is any flame needed for good sex to happen. Indeed, if you light a couple on fire, they will stop having sex immediately. What about diamonds require pressure! Can’t make omelettes without broken eggs! You need cold to make Ice-cream! Fish need water to swim! A plant needs sun to grow! A flint won’t make a spark without being struck by iron! But nobody goes around saying that the way to get better sex is to break some eggs on your lover, douse them in icy water, and then strike them with an iron. Her metaphors are clever sounding, but utterly misleading.

    And, “You can’t desire what you already possess,” her big banner headline, is not a deep truth, but only a bad pun on the two meanings of the word desire (to covet vs sexual desire).

    Dr Perel continuously creates false dichotomies of…
    Passion and adventure vs love and stability,
    Autonomy vs connection,
    Erotic vs domestic,
    Desire vs intimacy…

    And she makes it sound very logical, and it does align fequently align with careless observation. And I guess someone can be forgiven if they have only eaten candy and burgers, for thinking that all things are either only sweet OR only salty. But then they try Thai food, and they realize that salt, sugar, and even hot peppers can exist in the same bite.

    Plenty of couples have one but not the other. Some have neither. Many have both. And both, in my experience, and the experience of couples I work with, is really, really good.

    And if you take 30 seconds to do the thought experiment of bringing to mind the most loving, sexually passionate couple you know, you’ll almost certainly observe that they are not organizing their life to maximize their autonomy and time apart, but rather prioritize spending as much of their free time as possible in each other’s company.

    Of course you can have great sex without being in love.
    Of course you can be in love and not have great sex (or any erotic desire at all).
    And… OF COURSE YOU CAN BE IN LOVE (and have lots of intimacy, trust, safety, connection, and trust) AND HAVE GREAT SEX (and autonomy, adventure, passion, and desire).

    1. as much as Esther’s book resonated with me your reply made me think. Thank you for your thoughts!

    1. Hi, Julie. Try right-clicking on the podcast player just below the written introduction and after the “Listen on Overcast” button. If that doesn’t work, click on the download-cloud icon inside the player to the right. It will take you to a new player page. Then click inside that player on the three vertically stacked dots, and you should be able to download from there. Please reply or comment again if you’re still having trouble.

  2. Hi Tim,

    I have given up Twitter so I’ll have to contact you through the blog. Sorry that this is off topic.

    In your last 5BF email you made an eye mask recommendation. There are two problems with it:
    1) it is 2 dimensional, so the material is pressed across your eyes. Many people find this unpleasant and uncomfortable; and
    2) the strap is connected across the midline of the mask, exacerbating point 1.

    I have been using an mask from Mindfold (I don’t work for them!) that addresses both of these problems. It has an extra layer between the mask and your face which has several benefits:
    1) the extra layer adds depth which means that you can open and close your eyes without touching the mask;
    2) the extra layer also contacts the area around your eyes in such a way that you can move your eyes or face without letting in light; and
    3) because you have an extra layer between face and mask the mask portion can focus on blocking light, meaning that it can be a stronger material.

    Honestly, this is the end game of eye masks. The only weakness is that it is made from cheap material and lacks the extra bells and whistles like adjustable straps, silk, or cooling features.

    Check it out!


  3. Thank you for sharing! There is always something inspiring to learn from Seth Godin.

    I would choose to read ‘The Long Tail’ to learn about how ideas spread. Knowing that there are great ideas out there that will be lost if they are not executed within a certain period of time, and people who have the potential to help change the world who may give up because they don’t have the resources etc to help them, are things that bother me. That’s something that keeps me awake at 11.30pm NZ time.

    So if there’s one question I could ask both Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin, it would be – what keeps you awake at night?

  4. Thanks to Seth Godin for turning me on to the poet Sarah Kay and her If I Should Have a Daughter TED Talk. And Perel: “Would you say that you were raised more for autonomy or loyalty?” Killer question!