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While browsing through a recent sale on Audible, I came across Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors. The book poses the same 11 outstanding questions to hundreds of thought leaders and experts from around the world. While it’s a few years old, I had never heard of this book and thought it would be a great way to gain insight from many people at once.
As I listened, it struck me how similar Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors is to my Write Now interview series. Every Wednesday, I share a new interview with a working author posing the same seven questions. There’s something wonderful about seeing how different people answer the same questions.
Throughout the last few years, I’ve interviewed some of my writing heroes for Write Now — Andy Weir, Kristen Arnett, Pierce Brown, Sarah Knight, and (later this month) Neal Shusterman! There’s a lot of insight to be gleaned from my Tribe of Mentors! If you’re unfamiliar with Write Now, give it a read-through and see what amazing insights you can glean.
Before you ask, Tim Ferriss states on his website that he no longer gives interviews. It’s part of a commitment to time and saying no, a common theme throughout the Tribe of Mentors responses.
Below, I’ve captured the common takeaways that stood out to me from Tribe of Mentors and my answers to the 11 challenging questions. I’m curious to hear what you think. Pick one of the questions and respond with your answer.
Common takeaways from Tribe of Mentors
Don’t eat sugar
It’s incredible how many people mentioned eliminating sugar from their diet to improve their lives. Research has concluded that sugar is killing us, but ice cream and cookies are delicious… And so are most fruits!
Having said that, I know it’s terrible for me in the quantities typically consumed. I’m trying to remain conscious of my sugar consumption and, where possible, stick to natural sugar rather than processed options.
Be ruthless with your calendar
Most of the Tribe of Mentors are ruthless with their calendars. They say no to many things. Multiple people even say no to any request or invitation more than a week away. Like I said, ruthless. However, it makes total sense.
Our time is valuable and can easily be consumed by meetings, invitations, and events. If we’re not careful, we lose time for what we need to do, let alone want to. Right now, I try to respond to every email and request for my time. It’s a lot, but I’m also relatively flexible. As my calendar fills up, I’ll need to take the Mentors’ advice and get more ruthless.
Movement is connected to wellbeing
Maybe it’s because Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors includes many athletes, but one of the common themes was the importance of daily movement. So many people talked about an exercise routine or the simplicity of walking to improve moods and restore creativity.
I wholeheartedly concur with this (as you’ll read about below). Additionally, yoga helps with my muscles, while indoor cycling gets my blood flowing. I try to stick to a routine and, as they say, close my rings daily.
Meditation has always seemed incredibly difficult for me since my mind wanders easily in different directions. Yet, meditation was frequently mentioned in Tribe of Mentors — specifically transcendental meditation. Some of the Mentors even said meditating for at least an hour every day!
I’ve been adding meditation to my evening routine in small chunks. I spend five minutes focusing on my breathing a few times a week. Not only does it help me fall asleep, but it helps cut out the noise in my head. While I’m far from meditating for an hour, five minutes seems beneficial.
Never stop learning
The final common theme from Tribe of Mentors is never to stop learning. Many of the Mentors shared about things that excite them and cause them to dig deeper.
I firmly believe in the value of learning something new every day. Granted, it might not be something monumental that alters our lives — but it could be! I picked up Tribe of Mentors to see what I could learn, and, well, it was a lot. What are you learning today?
My answers to Tim Ferriss’ 11 questions
1: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
I don’t give a lot of books as gifts — maybe I should, now that I have one to give. That said, different books have inspired me at different points in my life.
As a child, The Thief of Always by Clive Barker was one I read multiple times over the years. The whimsical and haunting early YA story captured my imagination in ways no book had at the time. I still have a well-worn copy on my bookshelf.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel has provided a similar experience in recent years. The language and tone are equally beautiful and painfully sad. I’ve not come across prose like St. John Mandel’s. I’ve physically read Station Eleven multiple times, listened to the audiobook version, and thoroughly enjoyed the screen adaptation. The story is one of hope despite horrific circumstances. It’s a great book.
I’m currently reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. With a few chapters left, I can honestly add the book to this list. It feels as if Brown wrote this book directly for me. Ever read a book and cursed the author out loud because of true the statement is? Yeah, that’s The Gifts of Imperfection for me. It’s fantastic, and I look forward to rereading it in the years to come.
2: What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.
It’s not the last six months, but about a year and a half ago, I bought an Instapot Vortex 5.7 qt Air Fryer (affiliate link), which has revolutionized how I cook. There typically isn’t a day that I don’t use it for something — from toasting to cooking. The large basket also lets me cook entire meals by simply adding new ingredients as I go.
For example, cube up some potatoes and then season and toss in some oil. Throw them in the basket at 390 degrees for about eight minutes. Then, throw in some cubed and seasoned pork for another eight minutes. Finally, toss some broccoli in oil, season, and put in for the final three minutes. Then, mix everything up and plate it. Top it with hot sauce, honey, hot honey, a fried egg, or all of the above. Serve and enjoy.
Granted, the MSRP on this little guy is $139, but I picked it up on sale for $99 — quite the bargain!
3: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
Failure is a strong word. We only truly fail if we don’t learn anything or grow from our experiences and setbacks. Every choice, experience, and decision has made me who I am today — I can’t call any of that a failure.
There was a point when I wondered if my business was successful. I compared my results and income to my perception of others based on their Twitter and LinkedIn posts. Playing the comparison game is a beeline to failure town. Not only is there no real truth on Twitter and LinkedIn, but comparing against perception is super unhealthy.
I started reframing my views and only compared my results against my expectations. Not only was I meeting my goals, but I was surpassing them in many areas. My business was successful, and, by correlation, I was successful. It was an essential shift in my mindset.
Failure only occurs if we let it. When we learn and grow, we always succeed.
4: If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it—metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions—what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
“Get Out Of Your Own Way.”
So often, I find that we are our biggest obstacle. We overthink things or let fear hold us back from trying something exciting or different. I know that is the case with myself and many people I’ve coached over the years. Hell, there’s an entire chapter in my book about this very idea. When we do get out of our way and stop giving in to fear, we accomplish amazing things.
5: What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
I invested a significant amount of time writing my book in 2021. Edits, rewrites, feedback — I spent considerable time putting together a manuscript that I was happy with.
Then I let it sit for about six months.
During that time, I invested my time into clients and The Writing Cooperative. While I hadn’t intended to walk away from the manuscript for that long, it was extremely beneficial. When I read through the draft after such a long time, everything was new and fresh rather than old and stale. Editing the final draft was fun and resulted in something I’m incredibly proud of.
Investing the time to write the book and then let it sit resulted in the high-quality work I hoped for.
6: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
I can’t go to sleep after being sweaty. It’s a problem here in Florida since walking outside often results in a nice shimmer of sweat. That sticky, wet feeling makes me feel unclean. I take a lot of evening showers in the summer.
7: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Therapy. While I always knew of the value, I never thought I needed a therapist. Boy, was I wrong! Everyone needs a therapist who listens and helps guide an understanding of ourselves. I’m grateful to be in an excellent therapy relationship that has benefited me in countless ways.
8: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
“You still have much to learn, young padawan.” College is great, but there is a big difference between academic intelligence and practical experience.
I once read that unless your college degree is in a specialized field (engineering, health, law), it’s simply a piece of paper that shows potential employers you’re trainable. Sure, college provides a foundational education and resources to build from, but it is not the end of your education.
I strive never to stop learning. While I haven’t been in a classroom in some time, my education comes from reading, experiencing, and growing. Young adults new to the “real world” should do the same. Hell, older adults firmly entrenched in the “real world” should also strive never to stop learning, too.
9: What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“Publish everything.” It’s terrible advice.
The internet makes it very easy to share our thoughts with the world, but that doesn’t mean we always should. I’m a big fan of writing daily, but I’m not a fan of publishing daily. That type of deadline usually leads to unedited and less-than-coherent messages. Too many new writers ideate, write, and publish in the same sitting. It’s not beneficial for growth as a writer or an audience. People really need to stop spouting this nonsense.
10: In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with social media. It’s a tool I love, but I’m also well versed in the psychological conditioning designed to keep us within the apps. As a result, I’ve tried to reduce my social media screen time over the last few years.
Apple makes this a bit easier with the addition of Screen Time and App Limits. I currently have a 30-minute combined daily app limit for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. The limit is shared across devices, so I can’t cheat by checking LinkedIn on my computer or Twitter on my iPad. Apple warns me when I’m five minutes from the daily limit and then turns the app off when time runs up.
While the method isn’t foolproof (you can disable the block for the day or in 15-minute increments), it’s a great reminder of how much time these apps consume. Plus, adding the limit has enabled me to train my brain to limit usage. It’s been immensely beneficial and has freed up time for other activities.
11: When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
I ask all the writers in Write Now interviews how they deal with writer’s block. Some of my favorite answers revolve around acknowledging that writer’s block is usually related to feeling unfocused or unmotivated. This is a feeling that I strongly relate to, especially if the writing project I’m working on is less than interesting or I’m stuck on a certain point.
When I feel unfocused, I like to do anything other than write — exercise, play a video game, cook, or watch a tv show. These activities may seem like a waste of time in our productivity-obsessed culture, but they are anything but — they let my mind wander or engage in other creative activities. Taking a break and resetting my brain frees up the energy and ideation to refocus on the project at hand. Plus, absorbing the creativity of others often provides inspiration and motivation to tackle my projects. It’s a win-win. Let all the productivity-obsessed be damned.
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