I regularly read books with a notepad at the ready. A dumping ground for little pearls of wisdom, references to other material, and ideas spawned that happen while reading the book. After finishing Tribe of Mentors, I had three pages of notes. It could have easily been ten had I not been conservative with what was worthy of noting.
Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice form the Best in the World is a tome chock full of jumping off points to other reading material. Its author, Tim Ferriss, has established himself as an authority on teasing out the habits and routines of world class performers. I’ve been a big fan of Tim’s work, stretching all the way back to his first title: The 4-Hour Work Week (which I need to go back and re-read). In Tribe of Mentors, Tim has reached out to over one hundred masters of their craft. The goal: reach out to these mentors and document advice on challenges that we all face in our daily lives or simply to gain a peek into wisdom that they’ve gained on their personal and professional journey.
For the curious, Tim has mentioned that less than 10% of the mentors in this book have been on his podcast. That means most of the content in this book is fresh material. That’s welcome news. Many popular bloggers or podcasters have a habit of monetizing their free content by re-publishing it in printed form. This certainly isn’t the case with Tribe of Mentors.
Questions Yield Answers
For each mentor in the book, Tim asked the following questions:
- What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why?
- What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
- How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
- If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – what would it say and why?
- What is the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
- What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
- In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
- What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
- What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
- In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?
- When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
Not every interviewee answers all questions but certainly answered the ones which were most relevant to their situation. Almost every mentor put careful thought into the answers they provided. Some answers fall on the side of common sense, while others offer truly inspirational, and actionable, guidance.
Throughout Tribe of Mentors there were several reoccurring themes across the interviewees in response to various questions. Most notable was regular practicing of meditation. Not all practitioners followed the same style of meditation. Regardless, the frequency by which meditation was mentioned certainly should raise eyebrows to anyone interested in utilizing mindfulness in their own lives.
Expanding horizons via literature is obviously important considering Tim included a question devoted to book gifting. Each interviewee had great book recommendations but what was surprising was how many were listening to their books. Services like Audible.com were often mentioned as something the interviewee regularly used.
Side Note: I highly recommend Headspace for a fantastic introduction to guided meditation.
Tribe of Mentors was certainly a treasure trove if you’re an inspirational quote junkie. I found myself jotting down many quotes from not only the authors but also from the “billboard question”. Quite often, the “billboard question” yielded quotes from the mentors mentor!
Follow Up Books
The following list of books are are pulled from the “what book have you gifted question”. This list only contains the titles which struck me as particularly interesting and ones that should be followed up on. My reading queue is now officially overflowing – thanks Tim!
- Total Freedom
- Top Five Regrets of the Dying
- The War of Art (recommended multiple times)
- The Making of the Atomic Bomb
- The Blade Itself
- Man’s Search for Meaning
- Zen in the Art of Archery
- Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain
- The Crack in the Cosmic Egg
- The Art of Creation
- The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
- On THe Road
- Ernest Hemingway on Writing
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
- The Fountainhead
- Finite and Infinite Games
- Any of Sharon Salzberg’s books on meditation
- Ready Player One
- A Field Guide To Getting Lost
- Thinking Body, Dancing Mind
- Mastery by George Leonard
- Poor Charlie’s Almanac (mentioned multiple times)
- The Alchemist
- The Four Agreements
At over 500 pages, Tribe of Mentors will add some heft to your book shelf. There is valuable knowledge and insights to be gained within the book itself but the larger value are the jumping-off-points it provides. Tribe of Mentors is an excellent compilation serving as a veritable table of contents for life. With such a wide variety of mentors, the reader is given actionable leads on where to go next from people who embody vastly different versions of what one would consider “successful”. Do yourself a favor and pick up Tribe of Mentors. While you’re at it, you may want to pick up an accompanying notebook. You’re going to have a lot of follow-up notes to review.