I recently started to read a book called Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss. It's exactly what it is says it is - short life advice. It's short because each person included in this eclectic collection answers just 11 questions about life. Tim Ferriss' set of questions were carefully chosen and ordered to foster the best responses from some of the most successful people on the planet.
I sent these same questions to my closest friends, family, and colleagues because they are no different in my eyes. So I'm using the same set of questions and order.
I thought it would be even more interesting to read the responses from the people who are closer to me than the company that Ferriss keeps.
Call it somewhat of a social experiment, but my objective is to continue to learn about this tribe, my tribe, in ways that I don't already know and add their answers to my collection of books because their collection of knowledge and experience is no less important than the authors on my shelves.
While waiting for their responses, I've already gotten calls to share my own answers. So here they are:
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?
The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo
The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason
These 2 books are really easy to read, but the messages are deep and complex. One speaks to finding the treasure within yourself after overcoming obstacles in life and along the journey. The other conveys the wisdom of logic, time, interest, and putting yourself first. Together, these books are a great 1-2 punch out of the gates of college and entering adulthood.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last 6 months (or in recent memory)? Be specific.
Blood Pressure Monitor ($44.99 on Amazon) - It’s gotten me to pay specific attention to my, well, blood pressure and pulse. It took a change in medication that caused my heart to beat out of my chest and cause discomfort for me to make this purchase, but it was much needed even before that. Although my diet has been pretty consistent and healthy, the blood pressure monitor has served as my checkmate. I’ve become very conscious of the decisions that I make because this device sits in front of me on my desk in my office. It’s a daily reminder not to abuse my body.
How has failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
I’ve failed so many times in my life, it’s impossible to count. But none more life changing than the series of what, at the time, were the most depressing chain of events I could ever imagine. After choosing to leave a comfortable job, after being employed for 14 years, my wife and I decided to take 6 months off to travel around the world. When I came home I had great hope and positivity about quickly re-joining the workforce. While we were planning the trip, throughout the trip, and even when we first came home, I had little doubt I’d be able to find a job and get right back to it - continuing my professional career. I was never so wrong in my life.
In a span of 17 months, I applied to 181 different jobs. 112 did not respond. I was informed that I was not selected for 61 of them. I interviewed for 4 but was never contacted ever again. One of my applications was withdrawn. I was given 3 offers, 2 of which I had to decline after weighing all the options. The more time that passed without a positive response, the deeper the depression I would get into and the more I questioned my previous actions. Every response, or lack thereof, was a failure to me.
A change of scenery and an employer’s need to fill a role quickly finally gave me the break I needed. But because I was filling someone else’s need before my own, this job was ultimately a failure too. I couldn’t stay there. It wasn’t worth the time I was losing, the sacrifices I was making, or the stress I was enduring.
The brightest side of that failure was that it enabled me and gave me the determination to finish my studies for the CPA exam. And in the last quarter of 2019, I passed my final part and earned my certification.
My success today is based on the fact that I never really gave up, despite how awful it felt along the journey. It’s the most common failure/success story (the CPA part), but it’s mine. I lived it. I toughed it out. I am still learning from it because I still look back on it when I need motivation.
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 paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quote you think of often or live your life by?)
"The biggest room in the world...is the room for improvement."
Education is the most valuable intangible in the universe. Big data, oil / energy, investments, and cash don’t even have the fraction of value or importance that Education has. It’s so important that I’m going to capitalize the “E” in Education from now on - because it’s that proper and necessary.
Everyone has room to grow, learn, and improve. My wife always says that it’s not that you don’t have the time, it’s that you haven’t prioritized what you want to do.
And as I would say, “Failing to learn, is learning to fail.” Has anyone ever said that before? I don’t know. But I always have.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
There’s not one. There are collections. And those collections grow all the time. My favorite, though, are the ones called “Life Experiences.” In this collection are eating and traveling memories. My wife and I used to say that we travel to eat, and when we eat, we travel to the origin of that food in our minds and the memories from the places we’ve been.
Eating daal reminds me of 14 days trekking through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. When I eat sushi, I can’t help but imagine sitting in front of Jiro. A taco puts my mind on a stool at a street stand called Taqueria Honorio in Tulum. A hot dog throws me back to a bite at Portillo’s in Chicago. Or halal food places me on a street corner in Manhattan at 2AM waiting on line for the Halal Guys to serve up a platter with white sauce.
Every life experience I’ve had has been an addition to my collections and they’ve all been worthwhile. Even the bad ones, because of #4 above.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
I love a play on words. That’s probably why I enjoy rap/hip-hop music so much. The wit, humor, and quickness of the lyricism is fascinating to me. I feel intelligent when I can digest what artists are saying. It’s a combination of history, poetry, logic, and grace in a rhythmic manner making music catchy, smart, and colloquial. Rap/hip-hop have a bad rep for negativity. But if you really break down what some of the songs are about, it’s genius. You have to know about a variety of things both in popular culture and history to really get it. Maybe that means I have just enough knowledge to be cool.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Reading / studying early in the morning. It started out just to improve my retention when I was studying for my CPA exam, but I’ve found that reading in the morning has really allowed me to enjoy the content of my books, whether fiction or nonfiction. I purposely make time for reading in the morning.
Also, I’ve gotten into coffee in the last 2 years. And taking it in the morning with a book I’m reading is almost always the perfect start.
I actually think that the combination of the two has produced far better results than I initially hoped for and created a better lifestyle, one that I can really enjoy.
In the near future, I’m going to try to incorporate writing into my routine. Maybe that will be once a week.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
Two things. Find a fitting mentor. Find balance. A mentor can help you find your balance in the long run, but of course, not directly. When you figure out what you want to do or have a direction you want to point, someone can help you navigate how to get there. You will have to do a lot on your own but rely on your resources to speed up the process some.
I tell the people whom I work with or whom I mentor that I may not have all the answers, but I am sure as hell that we can find someone who can help us get to the ones we need in the order that we need them.
When you combine the guidance with your own hard work, you will eventually find the balance you need in work, life, and pleasure.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“Fake it until you make it.” FUCK THAT. I hate that so much. The only person you’re hurting is yourself. Yea, sure, you can fake knowing how to do something or why something is done, but eventually you will end up at a dead end. Someone is going to come to a realization that you’re a fool. And your reputation is going to be tarnished for the foreseeable future.
I’d much rather be upfront and tell someone that I don’t understand or can’t figure something out than fake it.
I think what I hate so much about it is that people get away with it. And then when you go to rely on those people, they end up being unreliable. My trust in them is busted. That person is no longer a resource but a drag on my well-being. Go ahead. Try that shit on me and see how quickly I drop you like dead weight.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
In the last 5 years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
Sugar. For years, doctors and the media have hyped the detriments of salt. High blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, dementia, kidney failure, brain damage can all result from too much salt. I get it. It’s a well known fact and to some extent, we’ve gotten that under control.
But sugar… no one talks about how bad it is for you. It’s an empty calorie. Sugar causes weight gain. It can cause tooth cavities. Sugar increases your risk of fatty liver, diabetes, and eventually heart disease. It’s just as bad as salt.
I’ve curtailed my sugar intake so much. It’s changed the way I can maintain my weight. I eat more fruits and vegetables, rather than processed / packaged snacks (which is another thing I’ve said no to). My life is much improved. I feel better. I have more energy. And I don’t pack on the pounds or have a hard time getting rid of them.
With regards to processed food, I’ve learned that if I want to have processed food, the organic stuff has worked better for me. I’ve found that processed products that are more water soluble are easier to digest. The best visual example I can give is… take a regular jar of Smuckers jelly or jam once you’ve pretty much emptied it. There are, of course, some remaining bits stuck to the side or bottom of the jar. Fill that jar with water, shake it up, and pour it out. More often than not, there’s still jam/jelly stuck to the jar. That’s your insides with processed food.
Now try that same experiment with organic jelly or jam, and you’ll find a completely different result. You will see that the residue slides right out with a quick shake of water.
Say no (more often) to sugar and processed food. Your insides will thank me.
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 step away from my desk, stretch, drink water, and go for a walk. If that doesn’t clear me up, then I go to sleep. Sleep can help re-energize the body's cells, and most importantly in this situation, clear waste from the brain. That feeling of being overwhelmed or unfocused... that’s the waste.