Tribe of Mentors

I was on vacation for an extended weekend – left Thursday, flew home yesterday, We don’t get away as much in the winter anymore as my son’s hockey program has been very successful the past 4 years. We have been playing hockey well into late March, early April. This year we (rightly so) lost out early as the team took a big step back – we lost several players to higher levels of hockey and didn’t get any back – so we had to pull from lower levels of hockey to fill the spots. It was a learning year. Still a very fun year, but definitely different than what we were used to. Instead of a top 3 team we became a bottom 4 team. Anyway, now we find ourselves with more time than we are used to in March – so we went on a quick vacation.

Nassau, Bahamas, at a nice resort. It was lovely. Often on vacations (because I have a 14 year old son) we try to keep busy and do things – but this one was clear from the outset it was to reset, relax, unwind. So much going on in life and work that it was a practical necessity. I felt like I was getting impatient – with everything – which is never good. Especially for someone who prides themselves with the ability to compartmentalize and deal with everything with a level head.

So off we went. I am a huge reader on vacations, and I had a business book sitting on my shelf that I hadn’t looked at much – Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors. I don’t really follow Tim and I don’t even know how I got the book, but it promised short life advice from various, accomplished people and I felt that the short part worked – if I didn’t like something in particular then it would be over soon enough.

To go back before forward here, I stopped reading business books a few years ago. I know, I know – it’s one of the most important things to do to grow as a person but the books just got more and more formulaic – follow THIS formula and you will have business and life success! Except most of those formulas don’t work for everybody. And most of that style of writing is to enrich the writer moreso than the reader. And (I LOVE starting sentences with AND), often the “next” business book is just a formula that contradicts the “last” business book. I found myself ping-ponging between all these ideals and ideas on how to be a better person and business-person – and all it was doing was eroding my instincts and judgement – while forcing myself to second guess every path I wanted to take.

As an aside to my aside – I witnessed a business associate make a huge mistake by relying on research to make a big business decision for him. He was so certain because the research was so clear and resolute – if only he did X, Y would be the result! So he followed that research to a T – and had a disastrous business launch that saw his multi year steady-eddy sales drop by over 20% (and that took 6 months to partially recover. Of course, I warned that research should inform your decision making, not be your decision making. They are doing the right things now and are getting back on track. Anyway, that is still the lens through which I read business books.

Back to Tribe of Mentors – basically, a guy sends out 11 questions to every thought or business leader he thinks he can get a response from – even those out of reach – across multiple disciplines. The arts, science, sport – you name it – and then he shares their answers. They were asked to answer as few or as many as they wanted to and to write as few or as many words as they wanted to.

It’s a brilliant book. Tim sums it up well early on – you may think 70 of them are garbage, and 30 are brilliant – but in the 70 you don’t like it may be the 70 someone else desperately needs to hear. I am paraphrasing him, but that is the gist. Something for everyone. Not a road map to follow to enlightenment, but a pot luck of some of the coolest (and nerdiest) people out there today that were either incredibly talented, worked incredibly hard, got incredibly lucky, or were incredibly brilliant – and someone made some or all of those attributes help them demonstrate some success in life. And they share how they feel about it.

I particularly loved that many of these thought leaders contradict each other. Which is brilliant and further emphasizes my point about why I enjoyed it. I don’t take notes when I read but I keep my camera handy and take pictures of the passages I particularly enjoy. Some I text to friends / associates, others I’ll print out and post on a white board, and see if I can find common themes.

It’s almost 600 pages but you can gain wisdom in as little as one page – as each person tends to have 1-6 pages of wisdom before moving to the next. It’s something to easily read in short bursts.

My two takeaways, things I am going to action on from the readings – first is meditation. Meditation – whether it be HRV, or Trancendental, was a very common answer – and not even to the same question. Some answered it for “What is one of the best or worthwhile investments you have made”, or “in the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life”, or “When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?. Meditation is a theme that just coming back in – and as someone who has a “restless mind” I think it is something I should explore.

The other was addition by subtraction. There was a gentlemen who gives up something for a full month, every month, and adds a daily habit every other month. I am a compulsive person and want to totally mess with myself that way. On my shortlist to “give up” for a month : alcohol, social media, gaming, sugar. On my shortlist to “add daily” for a month: meditation, an hour long walk outside, reading. Now, I don’t think I have a problem with any of the things I plan on giving up for a month, nor do I expect that I would give it up past the month – but it would be very, very interesting to see what the effects are on my life, my mindset – to take something away I do regularly – even if I think I do it in a healthy and/or controlled manner.

I recommend it as a read, and not just for business people. It’s easy to read.

Oh, the last, best part – he asks the question: “What’s an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love?” – and this just demonstrates that no matter how successful, or wise, or worth reading about some of these people are they are all just crazy people with their own neurosis, oddities, and strangeness. That was fun and comforting to read about.

If you aren’t buying books these days, but still want to read it – let me know, I will send you my copy. My email is in the “about” section.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. As someone who sells them for a living, I’d say readibng business books ranks close to the top of the list of things *least* likely to help anyone grow as a person.

    1. There was a question asking which book they have given the most as a gift, and many were not business related. One that seemed to come up very frequently was Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, which is a book about a chronicled life in a nazi containment camp. It was suggested enough that by the end of the book I put it on my “to read” list.

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