Six Mentors

Everybody needs a mentor or several mentors.

I was blessed at having had several great role models while growing up and have encountered others who have taught me things and shared their knowledge.

The closest thing that I ever had to an actual mentor was my father.  He not only supported me in whatever it was that I endeavored, but he also provided advice to me when I most needed it as a young adult.

Unfortunately, the cancer that took much of his own mother’s side in their sixties also took him away from us in his mid-sixties.  He passed away from bone cancer in 2012, and I still miss him and think about him most days.  I am close with my mother, but she has not and does not serve as a guide and mentor for me like my father did.  I love her dearly, but I do not turn to her for advice.  I am moving more to a helping stage as she is seventy-three years old now.  Financially, she mostly lives off of what my father earned years ago.

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That said, when four-hour workweek guru Tim Ferriss came out with a new book called Tribe of Mentors late last year, I had to read it.  Who could not use sage advice from those who have attained what you and I can only dream of?

The book is over six hundred pages long and packed with musings, wisdom and advice from over one hundred celebrities, athletes, tech founders and other well-known and not so well-known celebrities.

The whole thing is fairly interesting, and each mentor in the tribe issued something of interest.  The sheer volume of it and lightness of each mentor’s advice were my two biggest gripes about this book.  Personally, I prefer better written books by a single author, but if you wanted to gain a brief insight into what drives these hundred-plus folks to success, this is the book for you.

Given enough time and money, I could easily pontificate at length about things written by nearly every single mentor, but in the interest of brevity, I will share thoughts from six mentors, two of whom I had heard of and followed prior to reading this book and four that I had never heard of in my life and I doubt that most people have.

Richa Chadha

Ms. Chadha is a beautiful Indian actress.

She acknowledged something that I have come across many times in my reading and agree with in general.  That is, that the educational system gears everyone up to adhere to set industry standards.

While conformity with the educational system will, by and large, gain you entry into a profession and live a so-called normal life, very few people can break out of the cycle of the mundane to be adventurous, inventive and selfless.  That, in essence, is the path that I was set upon early in life and continue to travel.  Straight A’s through middle school, pretty good high school student and athlete, bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison, Master of Public Administration at UI-Chicago and a quarter century of office jobs.  Eight more years to go to qualify for a decent pension.

Chadha writes that people make recommendations on what they think is safest for you, or based upon their understanding of who you are and what you ought to be.  Because of this, they set invisible limits on how much you can achieve in life and pass those limitations on to you inadvertently.

She broke free and moved well beyond growing up to be an anonymous Indian woman in academia like here parents were.  They were supportive of her acting endeavors although they were apprehensive.

I will strive to do the same when it comes to my own children, especially our son, who has the brain to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer, but is pursuing a degree in jazz studies at the cost of over a hundred grand just for undergraduate.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Blog posts and Hubs tend to be very “lite,” just skimming over a few basics in a few hundred words for easy consumption.  One does not have to think very hard when reading things like this.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an actor who taught me about Google Scholar.  Just like searching Google, but it only searches academic and scientific studies.  If you want to know something, rather than reading a short post or something designed as clickbait, you can find out what the actual evidence says.

This does not apply to things like how to change a tire or someone’s ten favorite quotes on a topic, but for those of us who desire a deeper understanding of more complicated topics, Google Scholar is a valuable resource that I now use on a regular basis.

In the future, when I post about particular topics, I may include data and results from academic studies.  Those studies have to be good for something in real life!

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

How could a Jewish guy like me not read advice from a mentor who is a rabbi and in the House of Lords?

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Sacks is a British Orthodox rabbi who served as the Chief rabbi in Jolly Old England from 1991 to 2013.

Rabbi Sacks referenced the sat-nav system of his life.

We all use sat-nav systems when we are driving somewhere unfamiliar, but we often do not use one for the more important things in our lives.  Many people live like I have for decades, just taking things a day at a time without some bigger picture or SMART goals.

The rabbi asks where you want to be in ten or twenty years from now and writes that remembering that destination will help you make the single most important distinction in life, which is to distinguish between an opportunity and a temptation to be resisted.

As a religious leader, the rabbi references two things that are an ongoing challenge to me and many others.  Just this weekend I gave into a temptation that I should not have and thought hard about various opportunities that I should take advantage of.

If you and I want to get to a certain place by 2020, 2025 or 2030, we may need to reset the sat-nav systems of our lives.

Leo Babauta

I have followed Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits, for about a year now.  It is one of the many blogs to which I often refer to when I note that I subscribe to and sometimes read several dozen per month.

A wealthy and very successful man now, Babauta writes about how down and out he was, deeply in debt, overweight and addicted to junk food and feeling like an overall failure in 2005.

He decided to make a change those thirteen years ago and began researching habits and how to change them.

The valuable advice that he imparted is that he put his entire being into making one single change.  And then another one.  Eventually, making these changes one at a time led to his entire life changing and then to him helping others to change habits.

This is a different take on self-improvement as I have read over the past few years.  I, myself, create to-do lists year after year for my resolutions and goals rather than trying to change habits.  In a way, resolutions like Paying Myself First, contributing a certain amount to our daughter’s 529 plan and writing a specific amount of posts entail changing of habits.  But things like ridding myself of an inoperable vehicle and finally printing out photos are not.

Next year or sooner, I may scrap the prescriptive list or perhaps try to make a significant change in addition to the list that I spent so much time mulling over.

Mr. Money Mustache

Pete Adeney, aka Mr. Money Mustache, is one of the most prolific financial bloggers out there.  I have heard of him before and read his posts over the past year or two and just subscribed to his blog last month.

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With his wife and son, Mr. Money Mustache lives a frugal lifestyle, retired early and explores a freeform life of interesting projects, side businesses and adventures.

Mustache offers up some interesting advice on improving your life.

He acknowledges that we all have our ups and downs, so your goal should simply be to maximize your “up” time and minimize those down times to as close to zero as possible.

Mustache writes that the key to a great life is simply having a bunch of great days.  He includes simple pleasures like sleeping well, eating good food, going on a walk, leaving your phone, newspaper or computer behind, and some hours of physical activity, hard work and a chance to help out and laugh with other people.

Writing this on a Sunday evening at home after a pleasant weekend spent with my family, I realize that I have just had a pretty great two days.  Unfortunately, for me the drudgery, stress and pressure cooker starts again early tomorrow morning.  But as I tell my son who has had some rough times in college, I try to take some positive moment or several of them every day if I can.

With a name like Mr. Money Mustache, how could he be wrong?

Julia Galef

Julia Galef is co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality. She is a writer and public speaker on the topics of rationality, science, technology, and design.

Although over a decade younger than me, like many of the other mentors, Ms. Galef made two good points in her short section which I will gladly share.

First, she thinks that most recommendations on how to improve one’s lot in life are bad because they are one-size-fits-all.  Some examples are those gurus who advise you to take more risks, to work harder or to not be so hard on yourself.

Galef points out that some people should take more risks, while others take too many already and must learn to take fewer risks.  Some people do need to work harder, while some work too hard and must learn how to ease up before they are completely burned out.  Some people should be harder on themselves because they are already too self-forgiving.

As someone who often shares and writes advice on improving oneself, I will keep Galef’s words in mind.  I know that I do share many commonalities with many readers, but there are some things that may come naturally to me that would be enormously difficult for them.  Vice versa, there are a multitude of people showing others how to build or fix things online, and my brain goes kind of foggy while watching them.

There is no universal one-size-fits-all piece of advice.  Galef writes that the most useful kind of recommendations are about improving your general judgment – your ability to accurately perceive your situation, weigh your possible options, the tradeoffs involved, and your best course of action.

Second, Galef shared that she has learned to avoid consuming media that is just telling her things that she already knows and agrees with and uses politics as an example.  She believes that it is like venting, you do not learn from it and indulging that impulse makes you less able to tolerate other perspectives.

I find this take on it fascinating, as I have been striving to broaden my own horizons of late.  I do not want to just keep reading the same type of stories over and over, like how Americans are so deficient in savings, how automation is going to take all of our jobs and how Trump is leading us headlong into disaster.  I know and agree with all of that.

What I am trying to broaden out into are topics such as mindfulness, becoming grittier, creating more while consuming less and changing your habits for the better.  I would like to be able to declutter, be happier with what I already have and be able to chill on some things and not give a f*ck.