Adam Savage on Great Tools, Great Projects, and Great Lessons (#370)

Adam Savage on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast

Photo by Norman Chan

“A true creator knows that you follow the thing to where it’s going, not to where you think it ought to go.”
— Adam Savage

Adam Savage (TW: @donttrythis IG: @therealadamsavage FB: therealadamsavage) has spent his life gathering skills that allow him to take what’s in his brain and make it real. He’s built everything from ancient Buddhas and futuristic weapons to fine-art sculptures and dancing vegetables.

The son of a filmmaker/painter and a psychotherapist, Adam’s previous positions include projectionist, animator, graphic designer, carpenter, interior and stage designer, toy designer, welder, and scenic painter. And he’s worked with every material and in every medium he could fathom—metal, paper, glass, plastic, rubber, foam, plaster, pneumatics, hydraulics, animatronics, neon, glassblowing, mold making, and injection molding, to name just a few.

In 1993, Adam began concentrating his career on the special-effects industry, honing his skills through more than 100 television commercials and a dozen feature films, including Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Episode II – Attack of the ClonesGalaxy Quest, and the Matrix sequels.

A decade later, Adam was chosen, along with Jamie Hyneman, to host MythBusters, which premiered on Discovery Channel in January 2003. 14 years; 1,015 myths; 2,950 experiments; eight Emmy nominations; and 83 miles of duct tape later, that version of the series ended in March 2016.

Today, Adam hosts and executive produces MythBusters Jr., as well as a brand-new series, Savage Builds, which premieres on Science Channel in June 2019. He also stars in and produces content for, including behind-the-scenes dives into multiple blockbuster films (including Alien CovenantMortal Combat, and Blade Runner).

In addition, after a lifetime of hunting for the perfect bag, Adam launched Savage Industries and began manufacturing his own, along with MAFIA BAGS. Made in the United States and constructed primarily from recycled sailcloth, every bag is not only durable and lightweight but unique, as well. The current line (available at includes two sizes of the EDC (“Everyday Carry”) and pouches, with more product both available on the site and on the way.

Finally, in 2019 Adam wrote his first book, Every Tool’s a Hammer, which is, in Adam’s words, “…a chronicle of my life as a maker. It’s an exploration of making and of my own productive obsessions, but it’s also a permission slip of sorts from me to you. Permission to grab hold of the things you’re interested in, that fascinate you, and to dive deeper into them to see where they lead you.”

More information about the book is available at

Watch the interview on YouTube.

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

#370: Adam Savage on Great Tools, Great Projects, and Great Lessons


Want to hear another episode with someone who’s not afraid to let their geek flag fly? — Listen to my conversation with Aisha Tyler in which we discuss optimism, free-range parenting, aggressive failure, heckler stories, and much more. (Stream below or right-click here to download.):

#327: Aisha Tyler — How to Use Pain, Comedy, and Practice for Creativity


This episode of the Tim Ferriss Show is brought to you by Theo Chocolate, which is the first organic and fair-trade chocolate company in North America. The folks there reached out to me because they spotted some neatly stacked bars of their dark chocolate coconut in a recent Instagram photo of my fridge (see it here).

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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…


  • Connect with Adam Savage:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


  • Adam and I discuss our shared love of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and how Adam designed his disturbingly wonderful No-Face cosplay for Comic-Con. [07:18]
  • Adam’s inspiration for building not just one, but two suits of armor as a sophomore in high school. [12:09]
  • In high school, what did Adam think he was going to be when he grew up? [14:15]
  • How did a lack of specialization in his 20s lead Adam from New York to San Francisco, and why does Adam see San Francisco as a more ideal place for finding one’s ambition than New York? [16:32]
  • Did Adam find his focus in one cathartic moment, or was it something discovered slowly over time? [20:31]
  • How has theater been a force multiplier for Adam’s very particular set of skills, and what necessary family ethos kept him grounded? [23:16]
  • What would have made Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up a better audio book. [27:40]
  • We share recollections about Adam’s quirky Maltese Falcon presentation at the 2008 Entertainment Gathering where we first crossed paths, and he explains its evolution from a 10-minute throwaway talk encouraged by Kevin Kelly. [28:36]
  • The highest possible achievement Adam feels can be attained on stage. [36:43]
  • The origin of “Failure is always an option.” [37:29]
  • Favorite failures that led to later successes. [40:24]
  • Authors, thinkers, and philosophers who have had an impact on Adam — particularly Noam Chomsky in the current poltical climate. [44:19]
  • How Adam used the perspective of a screenwriter to de-escalate an argument. [47:41]
  • Where did Adam’s “watching the watcher” habit originate? [49:22]
  • What projects would Adam suggest for aspiring but inexperienced makers to get a taste of building something? [51:35]
  • The point when a maker goes from gear-switching mode to entirely mental mode. [55:04]
  • The practical side of obsession: find something you have to have and try your hand at making it. [57:28]
  • The last notable object Adam had to make. [58:21]
  • The materials one might use to build their own miniature scale home. [1:00:16]
  • A documentary about the artist David Hockney I highly recommend, and how it relates to practically scaled art. [1:01:39]
  • How a movie set Adam recently visited bridges between art, construction, and narrative like a big, complex puzzle that has to move just so in order to tell the story properly. [1:03:33]
  • What’s the story behind Adam’s rumored egg-making prowess? [1:04:55]
  • A few of my own egg secrets. [1:09:25]
  • Is Jacques Pepin a Jedi master? [1:10:27]
  • The Jacques Pepin and Julia Child way of finishing scrambled eggs. [1:11:20]
  • Musings on universal suffering and coping with defeating self-talk. [1:12:24]
  • The one thing Adam would tell his younger self if he could go back in time. [1:20:40]
  • How Adam’s book may be more of a stegosaurus he found than the tyrannosaurus rex he was in search of (and why that’s not necessarily a bad thing). [1:23:58]
  • What Adam and his wife can expect from the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. [1:26:34]
  • “Take no cure for your dignity.” [1:27:35]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:29:20]