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Book Review: Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Tim Ferriss
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Book Review: Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Tim Ferriss - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Tim Ferriss

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss had a rough 2017. The best-selling author of The Four-Hour Work Week had interesting highs (he delivered a TED talk; his first best-seller celebrated its tenth anniversary) and incredible lows (several of his close friends died). In the midst of his wondering what he would do beyond this, the year of his 40th birthday, he asked himself some big, meaning-of-life questions in order to figure it out.

Then he asked himself, “What would this look like if it were easy?” The result is Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), a collection of 133 profiles of prominent, successful people in a wide range of fields. Rather than simply wrestle with the meaningful questions himself, he posed the question to people whom he perceived as having already found many of the answers, or who had at least journeyed down interesting paths in search of answers. He didn’t know how many of these people would take the time to send him their answers, but here are 133 collections of responses from authors like Susan Cain, actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, musicians like Mike D of the Beastie Boys, and tech gurus like Dustin Moskovitz of Facebook.

Ferriss sent the same eleven questions to hundreds of people, asking them to answer their favorite three or four (or more, “if the spirit led”), then chose the most interesting answers from each respondent, presenting them in question-answer format with a thumbnail bio of each person. Some of the answers are short, as Patton Oswalt’s answer to “What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?” Oswalt writes, “I see a lot of people telling comedians to try to have more of a social antenna rather than a moral or creative compass. Trying to second-guess what the masses will accept or reject always leads to stagnation.”

Other responses are much longer. Steve Case of AOL submits three answers to the same question, including one that begins, “And the third piece of bad advice is that it’s best to ignore regulations and just plow ahead...but that worked for Uber because the laws were set locally, not nationally. That won’t be the case for most innovations in sectors liek health care; if you launch a drug or medical device without getting approval, you’ll be stopped in your tracks.” He adds, “The bottom line, like it or not, is that innovators in the Third Wave need to engage with policymakers to drive real innovation.”

The eleven questions are written with enormous care, honed over time on the Ferriss podcast, The Tim Ferriss show. They start with the simple (but enormously interesting) “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?” Then they move to practical but impactful. The fifth question is, “What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?” The last question on the list seems chosen specifically to help the author deal with his unusual year: “When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)”

Sprinkled among the profiles are interesting quotes Ferriss says he’s currently pondering, and expanded advice from some respondents on how to say no.

The answers themselves are the heart of the book, and they make for fascinating reading. Yet one of the best things about the construction is that the reader can pick it up, flip open to any page, and begin reading, or skip around to profiles who are most interesting or familiar. An index at the back of the book lists each question with the names and page numbers (linked, of course, in the ebook) of people who responded, so if the reader is most interested in a range of answers to one specific questions, he or she can read the book this way.

The shelves are full of books offering to help us better ourselves, but this one is special in its specific, interesting questions and in how it works equally wel,l read front-to-back or spot-read here and there. It’s a fascinating read either way, but we found it most fun to skip around, to leave the book within easy reach, and to pick it up during breaks or downtime, opening it up at arbitrary places.

Highly recommended, and an excellent candidate for holiday gift-giving. You could do worse than to use this as your answer to question one.

 

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Book Review: Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Tim Ferriss - Executive Leadership Articles

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