Tribe of Mentors (Tim Ferriss) Book Review

If reading this book along with Tools of Titans has taught me anything, it’s that you can derive lots of content from a single piece of core content. In Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss’ last book, he distilled and grouped the best pieces of advice that over 100 guests of his popular podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, have shared with him and his listeners over the years. In his new book, Tribe of Mentors, the approach has been reversed. Tim sent a list of 11 questions to a plethora of moguls, mavens and visionaries, listed the best answers in book form and is now trying to book as many of the contributors as possible to his podcast. A very nifty content generation strategy indeed. Here is the list of 11 questions explored in the book:

1. 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?

2. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

3. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

4. 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 a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

5. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

6. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

7. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

8. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

9. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

10. In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

11. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

In the book, Tim goes into why he’s asking these specific questions in this specific order, playing to the adage that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions. The “mentors” come from wide ranging background and live in specialties such as sports, journalism, religion, acting, chess, business, investing, etc. To give you a sense of what you can expect from this book, here are two of my favorite responses. The range of topics covered is diverse, so one is more philosophical and one more practical to illustrate this range. First, here is the answer to question #7 from CEO and founder of Angelist, Naval Ravikant:

“Happiness is a choice you make and a skill you develop. The mind is just as malleable as the body. We spend so much time and effort trying to change the external world, other people, and our own bodies, all the while accepting ourselves the way we were programmed in our youths. We accept the voice that talks to us in our head all the time as the source of truth. But all of it is malleable, every day is new, and memory and identity are burdens from the past that prevent us from living freely in the present.”

If you are someone who already devotes time to personal growth, this is not a new concept but quite probably the most poetic way you’ve ever heard it expressed. I don’t know about you but quotes like these continue fueling my fire. If you don’t devote any time to it, I hope quote like these spark that fire.

However, fear not, if that last one was too “mushy gushy” for you, this second, more practical, response to question #7 from Julia Galef, co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality:

“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 outcome notwithstanding?” If yes, the 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.

Let’s say you always aim to arrive at the airport 1 hour and 20 minutes before your flight. One day there’s an accident on the highway that ends up delaying you, and you just barely miss your flight. Does that mean you should have left more time? Not necessarily. A policy of aiming to be two hours early to the airport would have saved you this time, but it comes with a different cost – lots more time spent waiting in airports. Aiming for 1 hour 20 minutes may still be the best policy going forward even though it occasionally, like today, causes a missed flight.”

If that thought doesn’t rock your socks off then you probably weren’t wearing any socks to begin with, you hippie. But seriously, that’s the sort of thought that changes your perspective and tactical approach to life and frankly justifies the price tag of the book on its own. Of course, depending on your preferences, some profiles may not provide any value, but this is to be expected with such a large base of “mentors”.

I almost feel bad for participating in the “Ferriss universe” since I tend to have a healthy skepticism of mainstream trends and feel Ferriss has very much become mainstream. However, the quality of opinions and insights coming from the folks Tim collaborates with brings me real value and, when critically analyzed, studied and integrated into one’s life allow for better habits, mindsets and outcomes.

What I liked.

  • Ferris delivers on content. He was able to get an impressive list of personalities to collaborate on a single, time-boxed project which in and of itself is quite impressive. This wasn’t the case for Tools of Titans where the content was gathered over years on his podcast.
  • The structure and editing are once again superb. Very easy to read and follow.

What could have been better.

  • For some questions, the book gets a bit repetitive. There are only so many ways to answer the question: “what do you do when you feel overwhelmed?” People take a break.
  • Again, as in Tools of Titans, the subjects are not easily referenceable as there is no index by subject. Tim did make more of an effort to add indexes to this book though, providing a “mentor index” (which is basically a copy of the table of contents) and a “question index” which maps the eleven questions to mentor answers that were included in the book. However, these are indexes fall short as they don’t require much critical thought to put together. Therefore, they don’t deliver much value… He also included a “Create-Your-Own-Index” section with blank pages saying readers should create their own indexes based on what resonates for them which is sort of a cop out to making a real index… Unless you put lots of time in creating your own index, the insights in this book can’t be referenced easily. I suspect this is because getting the book on shelves before Christmas was more important than taking the time to make a valuable index…

Rating: 4/5

As stated above, I think the value to be gained from this book is stupendous. I’m taking a point away because of the lack of work put into referencing, and the redundancy in answers for certain questions. I didn’t create an index this time around, but I did put together a list of the best passages to help cut through the redundancy and improve referencing for the nuggets that were most impactful for me (yes, I used the “Create-Your-Own-Index” pages I just vilified above…) You can download it HERE if you are interested. Again, it is a word document so feel free to make it your own as you read the book. Consider it an Open Source document.

Personal Library Worthy?  Yes, I will keep coming back to this one for inspiration on various topics as I do with Tools of Titans.

 If this post has peeked your interest, you can read the introduction of the book here for free.

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Did you read Tribe of Mentors?  Did you have a favorite response?  How do you feel it compared to Tools of Titans?

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Tools of Titans (Tim Ferriss) Book Review

Tim Ferriss’ new book, coming in at a whopping 673 pages, is a “best of” his popular The Tim Ferriss Show podcast and show notes kept on his blog.  Throughout the book, he distills the nuggets of 112 of his favorite podcast interviews with guests ranging from Wim “The Iceman” Hof to investor Peter Thiel to performer Jamie Foxx.  Ferriss also adds personal commentary and links between different ideas put forward by his guests in addition to 35 “non-profile” chapters that detail his routines, favorite gear and life frameworks.

This project was clearly a mammoth undertaking, requiring sorting through dozens of hours of audio while attempting to identify the best moments for transcription in the book.  When I’ve read books in similar formats in the past, I’ve often felt like the author was simply trying to increase the monetization of his interviews, not adding much more value than the interviews themselves provided.  This isn’t the case in this tome as evidenced by the fact that it has risen to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.  Ferriss’ conscientious effort to link ideas together and dive deeper into the subjects covered by his guests are apparent and make this book worth reading.

This is a book I will want to come back to, reference and most likely read again in its entirety.  From Christopher Sommer’s (World Class Gymnastic Coach) practical flexibility and mobility advice to Scott Adams (Author of Dilbert comic strip) take on life, there are plenty of timeless takeaways and practical advice to revisit and integrate into your life.

Funnily enough, the main piece of advice that kept creeping up throughout the interviews was a variant of “it’s all going to be okay, stop worrying and push ahead”.  Seems like a common denominator to success in all fields is stressing out during your youth…

What I liked.

  • The book is written in a very accessible way. It treats a wide variety of subject matter but never loses you even if it’s the first time you are exposed to a subject.
  • The editing is superb. I found a single typo on the bottom of page 258 (“That’s on page page 384.”) but otherwise, the book has a great flow and it is a delight to read.

What could have been better.

  • Some take-aways require additional context, like having listened to the podcast interview or further reading. Ferriss mentions he’s written this book for himself, as his “bible” of sorts and this is apparent when additional context seems to be missing.  However, this might also be a strength of the book as it gives you a never-ending to do list of numerous other books, podcasts, films, websites, etc. to consult.
  • Subjects are not easily referenceable if you don’t remember the person who said them. The whole book is focused on the individuals instead of the messages in how it is structured.  Again, it will be easily referenceable by Ferriss himself as he has the interviews, experiences and key takeaways associated to his guests in his memories which will guide him when referencing this book in the future. I’ve actually created an  Index because I couldn’t stand it…

Rating: 4/5

The only thing missing from this book is a bit more structure such as an index for easy referencing. I’ve actually created one because I couldn’t stand it… The content from the book is superb and should be easy to lookup.  You can download it HERE.  It is a word document so feel free to make it your own as you read the book. Consider it an Open Source document.

Personal Library Worthy?  Yes, I’ve already annotated and tagged this book and will keep coming back to it in the future.  You can purchase it by clicking here.

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What were your thoughts on the book?  Which profile was your favorite?  Do you feel the index serves its purpose?

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