One of my favorite reads in the past couple of years is Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris. I purchased the book when it first came out and found it to be extremely helpful in navigating parts of my life. My physical book is still in Paris, but recently went through the photos I took of some of the excerpts in the book to reset a little. Will share my top 10 common threads and life lessons here. Sadly, didn’t capture most of the mentors names in these photographs, so you will just need to buy the book yourself if you are further intrigued!
Be here now
This is something I learned after my first year living abroad, both by living la vie française and by a pep talk with one of my friends. The fact of the matter is if you are not living in the present moment, you are either living in the past (big no no) or living in a world that does not exist yet. When I am with people, I try to be in that moment and get the most out of that experience and this is not just for business meetings, but also with time with my friends. At meals, I put my cell phone away so I can focus on discussion. When I am walking, I like being observant to the world around me, and when I am in meetings, I turn off my other notifications so I can give 100% of my attention to the discussion.
When I say living in the future, I’m not talking about future plans because we all need to plan ahead and look forward to the future. I’m talking about being afraid or stressing to much about the future. We can only control as much as we can control, so there is no use of putting our energy into fear for something that has not happened yet. You can read more on this here. Know it is hard sometimes to stay in the moment, but the more we become more self aware, the easier it gets.
As I just mentioned above, living the French life helped me experience life in a different way. If I did not move away, I don’t think I would have had the personal growth that has made me the individual I am today. Moving away from your hometown or home country is something EVERYONE should experience. It allows you the opportunity to be yourself and explore who you really are, not who people expect you to be, or who you think you are.
I think a lot of us live with some sort of internal expectation, whether it be from friends, family or business associates. Living somewhere where no one knows you gives you a blank canvas to create your own reality from scratch. I tried this when I went to university, but I wasn’t ready yet. Let’s face it, in my generation, not everyone is ready at that age, and furthermore, we evolve constantly in life. My time in Paris has shaped me to become the person I am today. Although I know I have work to do, I am a much more well rounded and spiritual person than I was in 2016. (write more expand AND hyperlink)
The Deathbed Test
So, one of the mentors in the book uses the deathbed test, which I think is something we should do when assessing who we spend our time with and how we spend our time.
The two questions to ask:
“Is this someone I might be thinking about when I’m on my deathbed”
“If I were on my deathbed today, would I be happy with the amount of time I spent with this person?”
Throughout my life I have a circle of friends—some are tried and true and will be my friends to the end. Some are transitionary. It is important to identify which ones they are sooner than later because the truth is, time is precious and we should be spending it wisely in aspects of our lives. Spend time with friends who push and challenge you. As one of my good friends recently said, “Be friends with people that bring energy to your souls” Friends who are family are not only fulfilling and meaningful, especially as you go through your life journey.
Be a Chef
Coincidentally, “Chef” is French for “Boss”. This one I absolutely LOVE because it is an absolute gamechanger. The author of this sage advice cites Elon Musk and says that he is unusually “chef like”, where most people are cooks following other people’s recipes. The thought process is that people would be happier and more successful if they thought like a chef vs a cook. For me, working for myself made me ultimately happier and less stressed out. Obviously, I still get stressed, but when I am, I can control all aspects of it. When you are working for a company, there are so many external and internal factors. When you are running your own business, the onus is on you to make it or break it. Bringing me to my next tenet…
Creation vs Possession
There is a quote from Vida Dutton Scudder that says, “Creation is a better means of self expression and possession; it is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed” At the end of the day, we are all creators. I, personally, find my most productive and fulfilling days is when I come up with a concept or business strategy/idea that I can bring to market, or days when I am writing in the zone like this. Unfortunately, the way that a lot of society (especially in big cities) is structured in a way that people seek fulfillment is based on what possessions they own, or external perception–i.e. whose Instagram vacation, or life, looks the best, but think it should shift to creating things that makes the world better, or at least their world better. Creating something that is your own is more fulfilling. A good example of this is when I was in Malta the fall I moved to Paris. I met an ex pro soccer player who left his high profile life because he wasn’t truly fulfilled–he gave up the sport cars, money, girls, for a more simple life in Malta where at first he just took some time working for a boating company to ground himself and decide what he wanted to build for himself. He opened his own restaurant with a friend and prefers this life more to the high profile life he was leading before.
Happiness is a Choice
This one rings truer than the others, and can also be perceived as controversial. To clarify, I’m not making light of mental health issues or depression, because that is real, especially now moreso because of the pandemic. I’m talking about the other side of the spectrum, where most of us have a choice to make when we get up in the morning and when each challenge of the day greets us. Pandemic aside, I have experienced A LOT of negative people in my life. I used to think that “Oh, they are having a bad day” The more I experienced it, especially from the same people, I realized that they were making a choice to be unhappy and to have a negative disposition.
Most unhappy people are unhappy with themselves and project their negativity to others like a mirror. If you encounter these people and they are not a huge part of your life already, get as far away from them as possible. Some examples or tells of these people are always criticizing other people (insecurity), yelling at people to make themselves feel better (repressed anger), being a sloth (self hate/lack of purpose)–these are just some examples.
As one of the mentors states, “Happiness is a choice you make and a skill you develop” The mind is malleable and again, every day most of us are capable of making a choice–we can choose to be happy, or choose to go down the rabbit hole. Most people blame other people or circumstances for unhappiness in their life, but Buddhists believe that we are the source of our own suffering. This is a place where we can control our own destiny.
Focus on ONE thing
Now this may be a hard one to grasp, especially for the multi-tasking NY’er and I am totally guilty of overextending myself in projects and what I want to take on. What has helped me through this process, is my vision board, or as one of my French contacts has named it, “battle board”. I prefer the name battle board bc you can have a vision, but you still need to work for it, putting it on a board doesn’t make it just happen.
Two of my favorite quotes regarding this topic are:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s ot what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of things we haven’t done as things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”Steve Jobs
“We could not run two Le Bernardins and have both be equally good. The more you divide your focus, the more each endeavor can suffer from your lack of attention.”Eric Riepert
So how do I decide what projects I take on?
Anytime I have an opportunity to take on a new project, I always check to see if it is something that is aligned with my goals and my vision—is it something that I want to spend time on?
I also consider how vested I am in the opportunity—am I all in, or just 99% in? I know 1% seems small, but I also find that if I am counting something as small as 1% into my deciding factor, there may be a problem.
Another factor I take in is the person I would be partnering with–Do I have a love for the person? Do I love what the person is doing? Can I work with the person?. These are all questions you need to ask yourself because at the end of the day, the world is about relationships and if the relationship doesn’t seem copacetic, the work won’t be either.
Lastly, make sure to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted. Something may sound good on paper and you may be feeling the FOMO, but that is why you should carefully vet each opportunity that comes along and ask yourselves the questions above. 100% alignment is key.
Let it flow
Whether you are WFH or back at the office, the stress is real, and so are the moments where you can’t focus on one thing to save your life. For example, I couldn’t focus that strongly on one of my work projects today, but felt the creative juices flowing, so decided to take the afternoon to write. Becoming self aware of my productivity has been become a HUGE part of my growth process. Instead of beating myself up over not being able to produce, I pivot to something I can get done at that given moment.
When I am overwhelmed, I always ask myself “What is the worst that can happen” and “Would worrying help?” (sage advice from two different mentors in the book). The answer to number two is ALWAYS no. The first one is variable, but the answer is never as bad as the stress I bestowed or would have bestowed on myself.
When I am lacking focus, you know my favorite thing to do is either pivot into something else or take a walk in Central Park or by the water. Usually it gives me some inspiration, the “ME” time that my body and mind needs, or just time to breathe and think clearly.
Another tip from the book, and one my friend swears by, is having sex. For me it is the opposite, I can’t concentrate after at all. He, on the other hand, gets super focused and can work for another 12 hours or more—so to each their own! I’m sure you will go through a lot of trial and error, but you will get there.
Just Say No
Scheduling plans is always a hot topic for me because I am now back in NYC where people are socially hyper and we are reopen again. I joke with my other like minded friends, that I prefer the pandemic life where I saw maybe on person a week, and that sometimes was too much!
A few of the interviewees in the book shared their tactics regarding accepting plans with people. One says, not to accept plans over one week away. Another uses the next Tuesday rule and says to ask yourself, “If the far out plans were next Tuesday, would you say yes?” And another goes as far to use the example of the next morning because saying yes to something weeks away seems easy, but if you put in the frame of “Would I do this tomorrow morning”, it would give you a better gauge of how you feel abou said plans.
The one I use, which was more in relation to interviewing someone than making plans is rating the meeting from 1 to 10, with no option of choosing the number 7, the thought being that 7 is such a safe number. If you rated it an 8, you really want to go, but if you rated it a 6, that would indicate you really weren’t that into it. I use this all the time and sometimes even do this on the morning of and cancel. You have to do what is right for you.
The other rule I try to keep post pandemic is to do no more than 2 gatherings per week, just because I thrive on my me time. Introverts unite!
In regards to meetings pertaining to my business, I allow myself a day off and meeting free day each week. This allows me to catch up if I have fallen behind, and also a day where I can work on, what I want to work an free of any distractions. I also go to the extreme opposite where I try and schedule all my meetings onto specific days, with ample time apart so I am not running late to any. Regarding which meetings to take for new businesses, I refer to the above in the “Focus on one thing section”
Just Do It
Yes, I know this is a Nike Slogan, but not every life lesson needs to be a novel. This was actually from Ashton KYes, I know this is a Nike Slogan, but not every life lesson needs to be a novel. This was actually from Ashton Kutcher’s chapter, who was also cited in some of the tips above (i.e. the sex recco).Though this is short and sweet, this is also one of the most important. Can I tell you how much time I have wasted making sure something was “ready”, i.e. perfect? The thing is life isn’t perfect and not everything needs to be perfect. There are probably a few typos in this post! But I have learned to put my energy into things that matter and to stop overthinking every little detail. If you have an idea, or a dream, go for it. Your life shouldn’t have any “what if’s” or as little “what if’s” as possible. As Ashton says eloquently, “Shit or get off the pot” We spend too much time trying to get shit set up right, or thinking about why it wouldn’t work and second guessing. It’s a waste of time—just do it.