Tribe of Mentors

Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors was published in 2017, and arrived in my collection as a gift in 2018. It took me three years—until 2021, March of this year in fact—before I was finally ready to read it. I have a couple, (and “couple” always means two,) of things to say about the book.

Excellence is the next five minutes, improvement is the next five minutes, happiness is the next five minutes. This doesn’t mean you ingore planning. I encourage you to make ambitious plans. Just rememeber that the big-beyond-belief things are accomplished when you deconstruct them into the smallest possible pieces and focus on each “moment of impact,” one step at a time.

~ Tim Ferriss

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As I was reading, I marked about 50 quotes. I didn’t count the markers I inserted, and some of them are at sections with several quotes. There are quotes from the people in the book, there are quotes that Ferriss included in single-page, “quotes I’m pondering” section breaks, and there are precisely three quotes from Ferriss himself. (All three are here, in this post.)

The first thing I want to share about this book is that it’s not really Ferriss’s book. He didn’t write a book. The vast bulk is other people’s work and writing. Some of those people impressed me, some were “just” solid humans being their best, and some struck me as self-deluded; which makes it a superlative book. Where—let’s be honest—can one get insight on 100 different people and tuck it under your arm? Insight on people you’ve heard of, people you’ve not yet heard of, and even some people you’ll probably never care to hear of. Furthermore, having myself done a bunch of, “you’re just capturing what other people say,” work, I’m qualified to say: He did the deceptively difficult work of asking. He asked and followed up and nudged and organized (and indexed and cross-indexed) and cast light on people he thought were worth giving a platform.

To paraphrase Jim [Loehr]: The power broker in your life is the voice that no one ever hears. How well you revisit the tone and content of your private voice is what determines the quality of your life. It is the master storyteller, and the stories we tell ourselves are our reality. For instance, how do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake that upsets you? Would you speak that way to a dear freind when they’ve made a mistake? If not, you have work to do. Trust me, we all have work to do.

~ Tim Ferriss, but see also, https://tim.blog/2020/12/28/jim-loehr-2/

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Which brings me to the second thing: There’s a very slim section hiding at the back. If I noted its existence when I read the Table of Contents, (I always read Tables of Contents,) six months later I’d certinaly forgotten the section existed. I could very easily have put the book down most of the way through and completely missed it. If you read nothing else in the book, this last section is the part you should read. I checked and it’s not published as a blog post by Ferriss, (but it’s small enough it could be.) Borrow or buy the book if just to read the last section.

Based on everything I’ve seen, a simple recipe can work: Focus on what’s in front of you, design great days to create a great life, and try not to make the same mistake twice. That’s it. Stop hitting net balls and try something else, perhaps even the opposite. If you really want extra credit, try not to be a dick, and you’ll be a Voltron-level superstar.

~ Tim Ferriss

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If you’ve not already guessed, all three of those quotes from Ferriss are from the last section of the book.

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Now I feel like I can read this book

The things that worked out weren’t _supposed_ to work, so I realized on my birthday: I had no plan for after 40. As often happens at forks in the path—college graduation, quarter-life crisis, midlife crisis, kids leaving home, retirement—questions started to bubble to the surface.

~ Tim Ferris from, Tribe of Mentors

If you’ve not heard of this book, my pull-quote is from Tim’s Introduction… eight lines into the book. The book is 597 pages, and the pages of the book—not including the hard covers, just the pages—are 1-and-three-quarters inches thick. It’s can serve as a functional foot-rest in a pinch. (But interestingly, not as a doorstop since it’s mysteriously light for its size. I keep wondering if the back half of the book is hollowed out, as in a prison escape movie, hiding a whoopie-cushion full of Helium.)

Anyway, if you’ve not heard of this book, find a copy and start reading the Introduction.

This book arrived in our house November, 2018. I started into it and it is, as one would hope, chock full of stupidly interesting ideas from so many different people. I got through 64 pages before, for some reason which I only just today realized, I put it down one evening. And then I didn’t pick it back up for, well, two years. I mean I moved it around a lot, but whatever it was that made me _want_ to read the book, there was something else that made me _not_ want the book.

You ever have sand slipping through your fingers? I didn’t realize it, (until today,) but that’s what made me walk away from the book. Yes there’s some malarky and woo-wu in the book; But there’s so much that I want to dig further into. Back in 2018, what was I going to do with that? …blog about every other page? Instinctively I knew that wouldn’t do _me_ much good.

But today? Today I’m comfortable knowing that I can bump into ideas, mull them over, and produce a contextualized, reduced to something I’m interested, idea… and drop that into the Slipbox.

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Learning to say no

https://tim.blog/2018/07/19/essentialism/

This is a two-chapter excerpt from a book, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown, a book about being an essentialist.

At the beginning of 2018 I latched onto the idea that by saying, “yes,” to something I am cutting off a nearly infinite number of opportunities. Whereas by saying, “no,” I am cutting off just one opportunity and leaving space for a nearly infinite number of other opportunities. That makes, “no,” the obviously better default answer, yes?

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Faith nevertheless

…when you look at everything that goes wrong historically, you can see a deep chain of continuous mistakes that lead up to it. And in a way, that’s really discouraging because it makes you think about each step leading to greater consequences. But on the other hand, it’s really encouraging because if you think about it and you think about, “Oh, wait. What if you do something right? And you do something right right now, you’re starting a whole other chain of events that can lead to a really positive outcome.” And so, his point when he was making the statement which was more or less that is even if things seem like they’re going in the wrong direction or things seem really wrong, you can stop, and you can do something small that’s right.

~ Nick Thompson, Editor-In-Chief of WIRED, from, https://tim.blog/2018/04/27/nick-thompson-editor-in-chief-of-wired/

Not only the studying and writing of history but also the honoring of it both represent affirmations of a certain defiant faith — a desperate, unreasoning faith, if you will — but faith nevertheless in the endurance of this threatened world — faith in the total essentiality of historical continuity.

~ George Kennan, The New York Times (27 May 1984), from, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_F._Kennan

This was a great interview where they spent a lot time talking about how writing really works, how good stories get written, and how good editors make or break publications. A long listen, but for me, it was a delightful glimpse into a new world.

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Witch hunts

If you ask anyone who’s read [Fahrenheit 451], that hasn’t read it in like 20 years, “What do you remember of how that came to be in the book?” They’d say, “There’s this totalitarian government.” The truth is, it was the people. It was the people who decided that any dissenting opinions that would offend specific groups in society, ought to be burned. So it was self-inflicted. I think that’s what we are doing right now. We are slowly torching the first amendment and free speech by, basically, going on these witch hunts. I think it’s the most dangerous thing in the U.S. right now.

~ Tim Ferris from, https://tim.blog/2016/06/18/jamie-foxx-part-2-bringing-the-thunder/

Normally, the Tim Ferris show is Tim interviewing his guests. But this episode is a rebroadcast of Jamie Foxx interviewing Tim.

First, great book. Second, I’m a huge believer of the marketplace of ideas. (That’s a significant part of the reason behind my Movers Mindset podcast project.)

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Gymnastic Strength Training

https://tim.blog/2016/05/09/the-secrets-of-gymnastic-strength-training/

This is an insane, 3-hour-long interview. Which I listened to twice. (So far.) Christopher Sommer ( https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/blog/ ) is an Olympic Gymnastics coach and this interview has broadened my horizons– about training, about strength, about recovery, about success, about goals, about gymnastics… I could not even decide what to pull-quote.

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Suffering

Krishnamurti has this definition of suffering that I really like, “Suffering is that moment when you see reality exactly as it is. When you can no longer run away from it, when you can no longer deny it.”

~ Naval Ravikant from, https://tim.blog/2015/08/18/the-evolutionary-angel-naval-ravikant/

I don’t know anything about Krishnamurti. But I know a good statement that cuts right through all the day-to-day bullshit; That right there is one.

I’ll save you some digging: Naval is quoting Jiddu Krishnamurti, apparently from The Book of Life: Daily Meditations.

…also, go listen to this entire podcast. It’s insanely long at 2+ hours, but Naval is a real down-to-Earth guy with a lot of useful advice on how to live.

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Like a wine sommelier who does not drink

I have found that part of the struggle of actually finding happiness as an artist is the very fight to not define success by the way that the rest of the world defines success. Which is hard because you have to fight the same battles every day. Because you go out into the work environment and the entire industry– And even to a certain extent your own fans because they’re sort of all drinking the same Kool-Aid– are all telling you “Success is defined by this, success is defined by this, and success is defined by this.”

And you’re there in your own little bubble going, “well, no that’s not really true.” I know that there is that superficial level of success, but then there’s also my personal success which no one else can define for me. It really is only defined by how happy was I when I woke up this morning, and how happy am I when I’m bedding down at night. That’s not reflected in any of the billboard charts or any of the iTunes downloads.

So success has this very two-faced essence where, as an artist playing the game in the industry and putting out music and putting out books and so forth, you kind of have to play that game a little bit and ride the balance of trying to get your books on the New York Times best-selling list and know what to do to do that. But also, simultaneously, not drinking the Kool-Aid. Instead, like swishing it around in your mouth, getting the taste, and then spitting it out. …like being a wine sommelier who does not drink.

~Amanda Palmer from, https://tim.blog/2015/03/30/amanda-palmer/

I am continuosly going through cycles of expanding the bells-and-whistles on everything I’m doing– more social posts, more this, more that, more cow bell… and then– as Amanda puts it– spitting the Kool-Aid out, stripping things back down to a new, better core and then again plowing forward.

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Freedom is the capacity to pause; Your list of three people

Freedom is the capacity to pause in the face of stimuli from many directions at once and, in this pause, to throw one’s weight toward this response rather than that one.

The pause is especially important for the freedom of being, what I have called essential freedom. For it is in the pause that we experience the context out of which freedom comes. In the pause we wonder, reflect, sense awe, and conceive of eternity. The pause is when we open ourselves for the moment to the concepts of both freedom and destiny.

~ Rollo May from, “Freedom and Destiny”

Check out Maria Popova’s, “Existential Psychologist Rollo May on Freedom and the Significance of the Pause”
https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/10/04/rollo-may-freedom-destiny-pause/

…and my favorite season is here! I love the cool evenings, and how the knowledge that Daylight Savings is about to kick in makes me pay extra attention to my time outdoors in the evening. One thing I love doing is walking while listening to podcasts where I often find inspiring gems.

Here’s an example from The Tim Ferris Show Episode #86
https://tim.blog/2015/07/05/stanley-mcchrystal/

Around 1 hour 20 miutes in, Chris Fussell says:

I had a great mentor of mine, early on in my carrer, say, you should have a running list of three people — you can but you don’t need to share it with them or the world — that you’re always watching: Someone senior to you that you want to emulate; A peer who you think is better at the job than you, and you respect; And someone subordinate who is doing the job that you did a year or two or three years ago better than you did it. If you just have those three individuals that you’re constantly measuring yourself off of, and who you’re constantly learning from, you’re going to be exponentially better.

~ Chris Fussell

Aside: DST should be abolished. It no longer saves us energy (it’s original purpose), but it does cause a statistically significant rise in traffic accidents:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199604043341416
(that’s the actual New England Journal of Medicine mind you.)

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