When Sarah Fryer entered the waters off Hapuna Beach Thursday, the 28-year-old stay-at-home mother from Washington was continuing on an inward journey — one that forced her to stretch beyond preconceived limits, work things out with newly found focus, and imagine new possibilities.
In the steady rhythm of strokes and breaths, Fryer found herself more at peace and comfortable with swimming, an essential life skill she learned just a few days prior.
Less than a week ago, Fryer said she would have been more at home on land than in the water and would have opted to “play” in the pool instead. She would have also felt unsafe swimming in the ocean, especially without a life jacket. She has feared waves ever since being toppled by them while on vacation. Also, Fryer had long worried about what she would do if her children, who love the water, ever needed her help.
Helping Fryer say so long to doggy paddling and her fear of swimming was “a perfect dream team of teachers” — Tim Ferriss, an entrepreneur best known for his rapid-learning techniques, including cramming a workweek and becoming a superhuman or chef into four hours, and Terry Laughlin, creator of the Total Immersion swimming method.
They were on the Big Island last week, filming an episode of “The Tim Ferriss Experiment,” a new program on HLN and produced by Zero Point Zero Production Inc.
Ferriss said the nonfiction television show is “all about making the seemingly impossible possible,” as well as encouraging its viewers to conquer their fears and realize they can do so about 10 times faster than originally thought. The goal, he added, is to offer “positive and actionable ideas” that people can apply in their lives while also making “really good TV that’s highly entertaining and stands the test of time.”
Throughout the series, Ferriss pushes himself to “deconstruct and decode tough-to-master tasks, such as rally car racing, surfing, starting a business, learning a language and playing a stadium show with a legendary rock band, with master efficiency.” If he’s not conquering a personal fear, he’s helping others like Fryer tackle theirs.
In particular, Ferriss said he has chosen to do things that he’s not genetically well-suited to do because he wants to show how people can succeed despite their weaknesses. According to him, “You don’t need better genetics; you just need a better toolkit.”
His toolkit includes techniques and approaches, which he insists are “learnable.” Also important, Ferriss said, are “early wins,” or rewards, to keep you going and an aggressive timeline to produce specific results.
During each episode, Ferriss eagerly tests assumptions, breaks down the steps, shares successes and failures, as well as offers counter-intuitive, uncommon solutions. Oftentimes, myths dictated by society, one’s inner dialogue and self-imposed limitations are what prevent people from taking a dream off the shelf or “going from zero to hero in record time.”
With any skill, Ferriss said he “solves for extremes and anomalies.” He also pairs up with those who are good at what they do and shouldn’t be.
Collaborating up with Laughlin to teach Fryer to swim made complete sense to Ferriss. About five years ago, he used Laughlin’s Total Immersion to learn how to swim better in 10 days.
Laughlin has been coaching swimmers since 1972. After producing dozens of national swimming champions, he got burnt out of swimmer parents and decided to teach adults to swim with “ease, enjoyment and a graceful stroke.”
His method uses buoyancy and streamlining to maximize the efficiency of one’s swimming stroke. Swimmers are told to lengthen their vessels by having “a long, sleek, barracuda-like body.” Swimmers also strive to propel themselves forward with the least effort, but with mindfulness. Breathing and seamless transitions are key, too, Laughlin said.
Ferriss describes this type of swimming as “beautiful, effortless and elegant.” By using Total Immersion, he went from swimming two laps in a pool to swimming more than a mile in the ocean without fatigue or panic.
In this episode, Ferriss says Laughlin is mostly in charge of the swimming expertise while he serves as an encouraging peer to Fryer, helping her understand and see the well-designed progression. Ferriss can relate to Fryer’s fear of water and even experienced a couple near drownings. Despite growing up in Long Island, N.Y., just minutes from the beach, and taking swimming lessons, Ferriss only learned to how swim well at age 31. It was a decision spurred by a friend’s challenge.
Fryer, who wants to be a Crossfit trainer and compete in a triathlon someday, decided to conquer her swimming fear now because of the opportunity to learn from Ferriss. She and her husband admire Ferriss, who is “a huge inspiration.” His book, “The 4-Hour Body,” helped her husband lose 50 pounds and transformed his life in other ways.
When competing to be on the show, Fryer said she couldn’t dismiss Ferriss’ advice in that book: “Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”
Fryer said she was grateful for the experience to work with Ferriss and Laughlin, whom she described as “a swimming Zen master.” Both teachers were proud of the progress Fryer made since arriving last Monday.
By Thursday afternoon, Fryer could say confidently the three magic words that brought her to the island: “I can swim.” For Fryer, this watery adventure has given her more than swimming skills.
“It’s provided me with intense focus, which I plan to apply in other parts of my life, and it has really shown me what I’m capable of,” she said. “Now that I’ve overcome this obstacle, it motivates me even more to consider what’s next on the list.”
For more information about the show, visit upwave.com/shows/the-tim-ferriss-experiment.