Tribe of Mentors
Short Life Advice from the Best in the World
by Tim Ferris
Read Status: In Progress 📖
Last Updated : 06 Oct 2021
17 min read ☕️
👷♂️ Work in Progress 🚧
This article is developing. I am probably still piecing the fragments of ideas in the right places. Feel free to poke me on Twitter to finish this piece.
- How I Discovered It
- Interesting Findings
- Favourite Sections
- Key Highlights
- Steven Pressfield
- Susan Cain
- Kyle Maynard
- Terry Crews
- Debbie Millman
- Naval Ravikant
- Matt Ridley
- Tim Urban
- Janna Levin
- Graham Duncan
- Soman Chainani
- Dustin Moskovitz
- Richa Chadha
- Max Levchin
- Neil Strauss
- Veronica Belmont
- Jerzy Gregorek
- Aniela Gregorek
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- Vitalik Buterin
- Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
- Julia Galef
- Annie Duke
- Esther Perel
- Maria Sharapova
- Adam Robinson
- Josh Waitzkin
- Ann Miura-Koenig
- Jason Fried
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- Tim O'Reilly
- Brené Brown
- Leo Babauta
I stumbled upon this YouTube Video by Grumo Media in August 2021 and I found it very intriguing. Miguel Hernandez created an interactive book summary app for this book using Glide. Glide is a no-code platform for creators to develop mobile-first apps from Google Sheets in minutes. I am very impressed by Hernandez's execution and it got me thinking of reading the Tribe of Mentors and using Glide for future side projects.
- Transcendental Meditation seems to be a popular topic among the tribe of mentors. It is mentioned 7 times by Jesse Williams, Aniela Gregorek, Mike D, Ray Dalio, David Lynch, Rick Rubin, Steve Aoki.
Tribe of Mentors includes over 100 mini-interviews. I find the answers from the following mentors particularly helpful (by order of appearance):
- Steven Pressfield: on doing deep work
- Terry Crews: every relationship should be a voluntary relationship
- Tim Urban: I like his analogy of cooks and chefs
- Graham Duncan, Max Levchin, Jason Fried: on their advice for startups
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I like his approach of focusing more on being honest over originality.
- Julia Galef and Annie Duke: their ideas on improving general judgement and disconnecting failure from outcomes. I like their books too!
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.
Were my goals my own, or simply what I thought I should want? How much of life had I missed from underplanning or overplanning? How could I be kinder to myself? How could I better say no to the noise to better say yes to the adventures I craved? How could I best reassess my life, my priorities, my view of the world, my place in the world, and my trajectory through the world? ...
I wrote down the questions as they came, hoping for a glimmer of clarity. Instead, I felt a wave of anxiety. The list was overwhelming.
Ferris' words hit me. Just a week back, I had the idea of Question-based Personal Knowledge Management. The plan is to collect all the random questions I have in a single list and attempt to answer them with what I can find. The initial list is long and I will probably share further as time goes.
It’s easy to convince yourself that things need to be hard, that if you’re not redlining, you’re not trying hard enough. This leads us to look for paths of most resistance, often creating unnecessary hardship in the process. ... Sometimes, we “solve” the problem by completely reframing it.
Ferris reminds us to take note of the Framing effect when approaching problems. He continues to recommend us to ask better questions, as specific as possible.
Success can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations we are willing to have, and by the number of uncomfortable actions we are willing to take. The most fulfilled and effective people I know—world-famous creatives, billionaires, thought leaders, and more—look at their life’s journey as perhaps 25 percent finding themselves and 75 percent creating themselves.
The disease of our times is that we live on the surface. We’re like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep. ... Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something—the book you’re writing, the album, the movie—and staying there for a long, long time.
Success requires deep work.
It’s not that I’d never thought about what else I might like to do other than law, but until I had the time and space to think about life outside the hermetic culture of a law practice, I couldn’t figure out what I really wanted to do.
Take time out to confer with yourself to realign your goals and life purpose.
The best way I can describe the feeling is a Finnish word, “sisu” — the mental strength to continue to try even after you feel you’ve reached the limits of your abilities.
His philosophy for hiring people ... He had his employees rate new candidates on a 1–10 scale. The only stipulation was they couldn’t choose 7. It immediately dawned on me how many invitations I was receiving that I would rate as a 7—speeches, weddings, coffees, even dates. If I thought something was a 7, there was a good chance I felt obligated to do it. But if I have to decide between a 6 or an 8, it’s a lot easier to quickly determine whether or not I should even consider it.
Seven tends to be non-committal. When you remove seven, it can either be a six, which is barely a passing grade, or it's an eight, which is very excited. A similar idea is "Hell Yeah or No".
“Work hard to beat the competition.” The truth is that competition is the opposite of creativity. If I am working hard to beat the competition, it actually prevents me from thinking creatively to make all concepts of competition obsolete.
I realized that I had to let people leave my life, never to return. Every relationship I have in my life, from family and friends to business partners, must be a voluntary relationship.
When you are operating out of courage, you are saying that no matter how you feel about yourself or your opportunities or the outcome, you are going to take a risk and take a step toward what you want.
You don’t just find and get a great job. You find and win a great job against a pool of very competitive candidates. Finding and winning a great job is a competitive sport that requires as much career athleticism and perseverance as making it to the Olympics. You must be in the finest career shape possible in order to win.
Am I doing everything I can—every single day—to stay in “career shape”? If not, what else should I be doing?
Suffering is a moment of clarity, when you can no longer deny the truth of a situation and are forced into uncomfortable change. ... Inside suffering is the seed of change.
Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. ... Happiness, or at least peace, is the sense that nothing is missing in this moment. No desires running amok. It’s okay to have a desire. But pick a big one and pick it carefully. Drop the small ones.
The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower. We live in the age of Alexandria, when every book and every piece of knowledge ever written down is a fingertip away. The means of learning are abundant—it’s the desire to learn that’s scarce. Cultivate that desire by reading what you want, not what you’re “supposed to.”
Do everything you were going to do, but with less angst, less suffering, less emotion. Everything takes time.
“You’re too young.” Most of history was built by young people. They just got credit when they were older.
The adult world is not full of gods, just people who have acquired skills and habits that work for them. And specialize—the great human achievement is to specialize as a producer of goods or services so that you can diversify as a consumer. Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty.
I like how he describes the adult world and it is similar to Ravikant's opinion.
don’t get daunted out of shooting for something you want, especially by potentially unfounded assumptions.
He describes people who reason from first principles as chefs; they experiment with ingredients and develop a new recipe. On the contrary, those who reason by analogy are like cooks. They follow someone else’s recipe. He considers Elon Musk unusually cheflike. I have added his book, The Cook and the Chef to my to-read list.
He encourages aspiring writers to focus inward and write to an imaginary audience just like yourself and do not give on your uniqueness. Your readers will eventually find their way to you.
life is the obstacles. There is no underlying path. Our role here is to get better at navigating those obstacles. I strive to find calm, measured responses and to see hindrances as a chance to problem-solve. Often I fall back into old frustrations, but if I remind myself, this is a chance to step up, I can reframe conflicts as a chance to experiment with solutions.
Levin also emphasizes the power of framing effects just like Ferris.
There are three mental models that influenced Duncan's way of thinking about people and teams.
Duncan found the Big Five or OCEAN model helpful in understanding what makes people tick. High open-minded, high conscientious, low neurotic is the killer combination in his opinion.
The second mental model is Harvard professor Robert Kegan’s model of adult development. Kegan argues adults develop—and make sense of reality—in five discrete phases. I am adding Changing on the Job to my to-read list.
The third mental model is from the website, Work With Source by Peter Koenig. They argued that there is always a single "source" in startups, even with multiple co-founders. The individual took the first risk and had a unique understanding of the original idea. The others that are helping with the execution often lacks this intuitive insight of the vision. Handing over this source role to another is extremely difficult. Koenig observed that the original source must move on and allow the new leader the freedom to execute in his own way to have a successful transition.
Duncan also brought up Dan Siegel's The River of Integration and applied it to the context of career building. Depending on our current circumstances, we always can course-correct and swim towards structure or chaos.
"There’s an important aspect that Duncan doesn’t get quite right. He mentions a study which showed that companies perform better when an outgoing founder-CEO completely leaves the board and doesn’t hang around to mentor their successor. I wouldn’t dispute the data here, however I would reframe the insight. Firstly, it makes no difference whether or not a founder remains on the board formally, or if they mentor their successor. What does matter is whether or not there has been a succession of source from one to the other. This is the deeper level of succession beyond the formal artefacts like job titles and share certificates. Metaphorically, it’s like ‘passing the torch’ for the initiative – a heartfelt handing over of full authority, responsibility and power. If this has happened, a new relationship can be established where the old source can help the new one however needed which could be through mentoring or serving on the board, but the new source will have fully assumed the natural authority that the original founder once had."
The crisis with all creative work is that it requires us to trust that generative voice inside us while also silencing the negative ones. It’s so easy to mix them all up and end up quietly abandoning our ambitions.
All of us come with baggage and wounds and pain; all of us. But recognizing that common, human bond is what helps us transcend that pain.
We can’t control the fact that bad things are going to happen, but it’s how we react to them that really matters, and that we can learn to control.
On locus of control and being outcome independent.
The first no is by far the easiest and cleanest ... we’re remarkably committed to maintaining a consistent sense of external identity, even if we only established it to begin with out of politeness.
On why we feel discomfort to decline further requests when we initially agree reluctantly out of politeness.
You have to lift off the back foot while taking a step forward, or you will not be able to move ahead.
I also do a “so what” exercise. I make a statement and ask myself “so what?” at the end of it. For instance, X was rude. So what? I felt disrespected. ... So what? I don’t want to be alone. So what? I have an irrational fear of loneliness. So what? It’s irrational. So what? So nothing. I’m good. So what? So nothing.
On doing a "so what" exercise to reveal our deeper emotions, thoughts and motivations.
Building a startup is very much an endurance sport, and cycling never fails to provide an inspirational anecdote, quote, or metaphor. Another Voigt favorite is, “If it hurts me, it must hurt the other ones twice as much.”
“Look for a partner you’ll try to impress daily, and one who will try to impress you.” Over the last couple decades, I’ve noticed that the best, most enduring partnerships in business (and in life) are among people who are constantly growing together. If the person you choose to depend on is constantly striving to learn and improve, you too will push yourself to new levels of achievement, and neither of you will feel like you have settled for someone you eventually outgrow.
Barnacles of the good life tend to slow you down, if you don’t get used to risk-taking early in your career ... If you are your sole responsibility, this is the time to step outside of your comfort zone, to start or join an exciting, risky project; to drop everything else at the chance to be part of something really great.
The advice to ignore (in certain situations) is to strive to become “well-rounded”—to move from company to company, looking to pick up different types of experience every year or two, when starting out. That’s useful in the abstract, but if you find that strength of yours (as an individual contributor or a team leader) at a company whose mission you are truly passionate about, take a risk—commit and double down, and rise through the ranks. Maybe you’ll be running the place before you know it!
There’s a lot of violence in the way we communicate with others—and with ourselves. That violence comes in the form of blaming, judging, criticizing, insulting, demanding, comparing, labeling, diagnosing, and punishing.
He recommends listening to the audiobook, Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.
Criticism is not failure. If you’re not being criticized, you’re probably not doing anything exceptional.
“Learn more, know less.”
Overwhelmed and unfocused seem like two different problems. I’m thinking that overwhelm is about mentally managing what’s coming from outside yourself, while unfocused is about mentally managing what’s going on inside.
Don’t wait until you get a job to do the thing you want to be doing. For most careers, showing that you have initiative by working on projects related to your future job is a great way to get a foot in the door. If you want to be a writer or journalist, start keeping a blog that you update regularly! If you want to be a programmer, create and maintain a project on GitHub. Anything that you can point to on your LinkedIn that screams, “Hey, I’m passionate about this!” works.
I learned self-mastery (from Letters from a Stoic by Seneca): to constantly improve myself so I would be ready for any possible disaster ... Deterioration is automatic in the process of aging, and the result is that we get depressed. But if we live like a stoic, it does not affect us in a negative way. A stoic is always ready for any disaster and ready to embrace it, to turn it into opportunity.
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
I believe that people can endure any hardship if it is sensible and constructive ... In every difficult moment ask yourself, “What is a hard choice and what is an easy choice?” and you will know instantly what is right.
Our purpose in the next four years is to teach you how to think for yourself. If we succeed, you will create something this world has never seen before, but if we do not, you will just be stuck copying others and repeating. Take my words seriously, study hard, but also open your imagination.
On college education.
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children . . . to leave the world a bit better . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Aniela also mentioned how her family makes decisions as a family. For example, they have an Eating Out Jar where each member would put their ideas on a Post-it note into the jar. Whenever it is time to eat out, they would pick a random idea from the jar, and they all love(or accept) the choice. These jars remove the need for manipulation or persuasion over simple decisions.
Everything’s a remix. Of course, there’s such a thing as being overly derivative, but I tend to mostly value sincerity over originality. I think I perform better when I focus less on being original and more on being honest.
“It’s really easy to say what you’re not. It’s hard to say what you are.” In other words, you can spend all day undermining other people, and even if you’re right, who cares? Anybody can talk about why something’s bad. Try doing something good.
I’d rather give an understated good recommendation: be interdisciplinary. In my case, I follow quite a bit of research in computer science, cryptography, mechanism design, economics, politics, and other social sciences, and the interactions between these fields tend to very often inform strategic and protocol decisions.
“The single most important distinction in life . . . is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted.”
When something goes badly, I don’t automatically assume I did something wrong. Instead I ask myself, “What policy was I following that produced this bad outcome, and do I still expect that policy to give the best results overall, occasional bad outcomes notwithstanding?” If yes, then carry on!
The reason this habit is so important is that even the best policies will fail some percent of the time, and you don’t want to abandon them (or beat yourself up) as soon as one of those inevitable failures pops up.
The above idea is very similar to Annie Duke's approach of disconnecting failure from outcomes.
“Well, I should have spent more time preparing for that.” Sometimes that’s true. But other times, the right conclusion is, “No, actually, the amount of prep time I would have to spend before each talk, to avoid mistakes like that, is not worth it overall.”
I think the most useful kind of recommendations are about improving your general judgment—your ability to accurately perceive your situation (even if the truth isn’t flattering or convenient), your possible options, and the tradeoffs involved. Good judgment is what allows you to evaluate whether a recommendation is appropriate to your situation or not; without it, you can’t tell the difference between good and bad advice.
She recommends reading Superforecasting, How to Measure Anything, Decisive to improve our general judgement.
One distraction I’ve learned to avoid is consuming media that’s just telling me things I already know and agree with. ... I broke my addiction by, essentially, reminding myself how much time I was wasting not learning anything.
She also raise an interesting principle that I find intriguing.
Uncertainty over expected value (EV) just gets folded into EV.
Suppose you may find yourself torn between two options. The stakes are high but it is unclear which is the better pick. In this situation, you should seek out information to reduce your uncertainity first. If you have exhaust all ways to obtain any additional information (cheaply), you should relax and pick one without worrying anymore.
"if I can’t tell which one is the better choice, then for all intents and purposes, they’re equally good choices."
Poker has taught me to disconnect failure from outcomes. Just because I lose doesn’t mean I failed, and just because I won doesn’t mean I succeeded—not when you define success and failure around making good decisions that will win in the long run. What matters is the decisions I made along the way, and every decision failure is an opportunity to learn and adjust my strategy going forward. By doing this, losing becomes a less emotional experience and more an opportunity to explore and learn.
In moments when you don’t believe in yourself, you need other people who believe in you. They can hold you up when you falter and keep you from hitting the ground. Other people see you differently from the way you see yourself. And that multiplicity of perspectives is essential to making us who we are. Identity is always a two-way street—created from the inside out and the outside in.
Losing makes you think in ways victories can’t. You begin asking questions instead of feeling like you have the answers. Questions open up the doors to so many possibilities. If a loss sets me up for those tough questions I might have to ask, then I will get the answers that will ultimately turn those losses into victories.
If you want to change the world, you have to enroll others in your plans and vision. Not only that, but the immense pleasures and satisfactions that can be derived from focusing on others, and the surprising discovery that the more I gave to others—which I’d always done—the more the universe gave me back in return ... now I am solely focused not inwardly, on my ideas, but outwardly, on connecting with others.
My three guiding rules of life. First, whenever possible, connect with others. Second, with enthusiasm, strive always to create fun and delight for others. And third, lean into each moment and encounter expecting magic—or miracles.
This is similar to having an Outward Mindset.
They (the finanical "experts") believe the trend makes no sense. But what makes no sense is their model of the world. That’s what doesn’t make sense. The world always makes sense.
The principle: the power of empty space—or responding to aggression with a void.
I like his chess story. It vaguely reminds me of the Empty Fort Strategy.
While classes I took in digital circuits in 1995 have long become outdated, the timeless lessons on fundamental human nature (e.g., John Locke, Thomas Hobbes), the rise and demise of great societies and the inspirational examples set by real-life heroes (e.g., Alexander Hamilton) found in the literature and history classes I took are ones I draw upon even to this day. In a world where we emphasize the creation of new products through rapid iteration and experimentation, we often forget to step back and make sure that the future we are racing to is one we truly want to create.
As someone who also majored in electrical and electronic engineering, this advice hits home.
Time and attention are very different things. They’re your most precious resources moving forward ... While people often say there’s not enough time, remember that you’ll always have less attention than time ... Protect and preserve it.
“Scale.” No, don’t scale. Start small, stay as small as possible for as long as possible. Grow in control, not out of control.
Tom Peters has similar advice on starting and thinking small.
“Fail early, and fail often.” No. What’s with the failure fetish in our industry? I don’t get it. Of course, most businesses don’t make it, but the idea that failure is a prerequisite for success has never made sense to me. I don’t think it’s a notch in the belt. It’s just a failure. Further, many people will tell you there’s a lot to learn from failure. Maybe . . . But there’s more to learn from success. Failure may tell you what not to do again, but it doesn’t help you figure out what to do the next time around. I’d rather focus on the things that work, and try those again, than try to take lessons from the things that didn’t.
Jason has a different idea of failures. Compare the above quote with Maria Sharapova's I think, regardless of outcome, there is always something to learn from the experience.
Macro patience, micro speed. They should not care about the next eight years, but they should stress the next eight days.
Everybody’s impatient at a macro, and just so patient at a micro, wasting your days worrying about years. I’m not worried about my years, because I’m squeezing the fuck out of my seconds, let alone my days. It’s going to work out.
Tom Peters has similar advice. "Forget the long term. Make the next five minutes rock!"
Focus on the now, be mindful of how you spend your time now. Don't waste your time on mass media that distract you from working on what is the most important to you.
“Money in a business is like gas in your car. You need to pay attention so you don’t end up on the side of the road. But your trip is not a tour of gas stations.”
“Create more value than you capture.”
We equate being smart and being driven as the ways to get ahead. But sometimes, an attitude of alert watchfulness is far wiser and more effective. Learning to follow your nose, pulling on threads of curiosity or interest, may take you places that being driven will never lead you to.
She encourages us to choose courage over comfort and reminds us of the potential pitfalls of action bias. Problem identification is always a sound investment of time, money, and energy.
“You are good enough, just as you are. Breathe, and relax into the moment.”