Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss [Books Summary & PDF]

This book contains practical and tactical advice from the most impressive world-class performers in the world who have found solutions. Whether you want to 10x your results, get unstuck, or reinvent yourself, someone else has traveled a similar path and taken notes.

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INTRODUCTION

Who is this book for?

This book contains practical and tactical advice from the most impressive world-class performers in the world who have found solutions. Whether you want to 10x your results, get unstuck, or reinvent yourself, someone else has traveled a similar path and taken notes.

About the author

Tim Ferriss is author of three #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. He is also a start-up advisor specialising in positioning, PR, and marketing (Uber, Evernote, etc.). When not damaging his body with abusive sports, he enjoys chocolate, bear claws, and Japanese animation.

In this summary

I’ve structured the summary in a way that answers each one of the 11 questions that Tim Ferriss asked in the book. I’ve identified patterns and common answers (which I mention in the beginning of each chapter), and then I highlight the most interesting and memorable answers I’ve found. Ready to dissect Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss?

BOOK SUMMARY

1. $100 PURCHASES

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?

It’s not the ‘thing’ that’s valuable – it’s what it means for you. The most memorable less-than-$100-purchases were the following:

  1. Jerzy Gregorek and Amelia Boone have bought a bracelet with an engraved line that helps them overcome their own emotional storms & feel gratitude.
  2. Joel McHale thanks the nerds who designed the Audible app, which allows him to discover the world of classics from $3 per audio book. Many others have mentioned Audible, Blinkist, and similar apps.
  3. Jérôme Jarre spent $4 to park near a beautiful lake in Oregon. “I took a swim and had a trillion-dollar moment with the water.”
  4. Anníe Mist Þórisdóttir loves her Five-Minute Journal, which gives focus to each day.
  5. For Ed Coan, it’s a framed picture of his parents. “They’ve never badmouthed anybody. This picture reminds me how I should treat everyone I love.”
  6. Ray Dalio has bought a pocket notepad to jot down good ideas when they come.
  7. Kristen Ulmer likes small acts of kindness for other people. “Not only does it make other people feel good, it makes me feel good, and it also impacts my life in one other way that’s not so obvious.”

Many popular answers also included headphones & products that improve sleep quality.

2. INFLUENTIAL BOOKS

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?

Many masterpieces have been mentioned. Tim Ferriss put together a list of all the books, which can be found here. The top 5 books of the list were:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  2. The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
  3. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
  4. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  5. Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger

3. BILLBOARD MESSAGES

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why? So many interesting quotes. If I were to pick the best ones, they would be:

  1. Arianna Huffington wants you to know that “Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success.” We’re under the collective delusion that we have to choose between our own well-being and success.
  2. Terry Crews picked “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Aisha Tyler “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” They’re all about defeating fear.
  3. Debbie Millman went for “Busy is a decision.” “I am too busy” is the most inauthentic excuse to rationalise why we won’t do something.
  4. Dita von Teese chose “You can be a juicy ripe peach and there’ll still be someone who doesn’t like peaches.” Most things that are universally accepted are mediocre and boring.
  5. Sarah Elizabeth Lewis always reminds herself that “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
  6. Scott Belsky believes that “Great opportunities never have ‘great opportunity’ in the subject line.” If the potential upside were explicitly clear, the opportunity would have already been taken. Seize opportunities when they present themselves, not when they are convenient or obvious.

Finally, some short, honourable mentions:

  • “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” for Jerzy Gregorek
  • “No one owes you anything.” for Amelia Boone
  • “BE HERE NOW” for Ben Stiller
  • “Storms make us stronger” for Bear Grylls
  • “If you can’t laugh at it, you lose.” for Jon Call

4. LESSONS FROM FAILURE

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours? The overall sentiment of the answers painted a ‘rags to riches’ narrative, which is universal. Failures have shaped successful people. They brought them closer to their real self. “Sometimes… not getting what you want opens the door to getting what you need.” as Mike Maples Jr. said in the book.

The best in the world have demystified failure. Out of the brilliant stories of the book (please read it), here’s 3:

  1. Annie Duke learned through poker to disconnect failure from outcomes. Bad decisions can still lead to short-term success and good decisions to unexpected short-term failure. “Every decision failure is an opportunity to learn and adjust my strategy going forward.”
  2. Dita Von Teese wanted to be a ballet dancer so badly. Through constant failures, she realised that all she really loved was what ballet stood for: glamour, femininity, elegance, drama. In one word: showbiz. “Sometimes, our shortcomings can lead to greatness, because those of us who have intense desire but lack natural God-given talent sometimes find roundabout ways of realising dreams.”
  3. Finally, in the words of Neil Strauss: “In the big picture of our lives, we really don’t know whether a particular success or failure is actually helping or hurting us. The metric I now use to judge my efforts & goals:a. Did I do my best, given who I was and what I knew at that particular time?b. What can I learn from the outcome to make it better next time?”

I also feel I need to mention these lines by Ben Stiller:

“With movies, you learn that the true mark of “success” is whether people still connect years later. If the movie has a “life.”

YOU choose the ‘end’ mark that determines failure or success.

5. BEST INVESTMENTS

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

There was a pattern there. Most successful people chose these 3 things:

  1. Education and mentors
  2. Meditation
  3. Investing in others’ success

The most memorable investments, in my opinion, were:

  • Tim Urban invested the first years’ profits into hiring better employees, reinvesting in his own business instead of giving himself a bigger salary.
  • Patton Oswalt said it was “The year of poverty-level living I did, burning off three years of savings. I got onstage at least once a night and grew ten years as a comedian in a year.”
  • For Jason Fried, it’s every time he’s given without any expectation of return, purely for helping & supporting.
  • Arianna Huffington invests constantly in her sleep, productivity, and well-being.
  • Brené Brown invests time and resources trying to figure out exactly what the problem is, instead of jumping to fixing way too fast.
  • Tommy Vietor loved forgoing jobs that paid well for positions that gave invaluable experiences.

6. IMPACTFUL HABITS

In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life? Again, there were common patterns amongst the answers, such as: Meditation – Walking – Sleeping well – Working out – No-sugar diet – Expressing gratitude.

The most interesting replies:

  1. Janna Levin strives to find calm, measured responses and to see obstacles as a chance to problem-solve. In the past, she would think “If only that hadn’t happened life would be so good.” Now she realised: life IS the obstacles.
  2. Julia Galef says “When something goes badly, I don’t automatically assume I did something wrong.” She asks herself whether she still expects her approach/actions to give the best results overall. If yes, she carries on! “Don’t beat yourself up. Even the best policies will fail some percent of the time.”
  3. Kevin Kelly avoids working on things that someone else could do, even if he enjoys doing it and would get paid well to do it. This way, he’s left with projects that only he can do, which makes them distinctive and valuable.
  4. Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir has embraced the belief that “her best is enough”. It is so easy to get caught up in the thought that to “win” you must do something extraordinary. You can always give your absolute best effort, regardless of physical state or circumstances.

A few rapid-fire answers:

  • Richa Chadha tends to look at the larger picture.
  • Max Levchin focuses on his strengths.
  • Bear Grylls learns to enjoy the process, rather than always strive for the future.
  • Chris Anderson believes that the best way to get things done is to let go (of control).
  • Daniel Negreanu has realised that all events are neutral, and we can choose how to react to them.

7. UNUSUAL HABITS

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

Even the best in the world are human. Here’s a few unusual habits they love!

  1. Adam Anderson gets endless delight “ambushing” unsuspecting strangers with random acts of kindness. “For example, after ordering my iced latte, I’ll give the barista a $20 bill and tell him to comp the person after the person behind me for whatever he or she wants, and to give that person the change as well.”
  2. Greg Norman brushes his teeth standing on one leg, alternating each time. “It is great for your legs, core, and stabilisation!”
  3. Liv Boeree likes to pluck the hairs one by one, instead of shaving her legs. “It has been my favorite form of meditation for many years. Takes forever, but it’s the most effective way for me to get into a quiet mind state!”
  4. Gabor Maté tries to seduce his wife with a Hungarian accent. “The seduction is occasionally successful; the accent, not so much.”
  5. Whitney Cummings loves lying down in dirt. “There’s something very liberating about being dirty, because then you don’t have to worry about getting dirty.”
  6. Steve Jurvetson loves launching big homemade rockets with his kids, Caroline Paul loves detangling necklaces, and Bram Cohen is a published inventor of mechanical puzzles.
  7. Finally, Peter Attia is a category on his own. He loves egg boxing. Google it! “I’m convinced that if the world knew about it, it would become a worldwide sport and eventually an Olympic sport and therefore cease to be absurd.”

8. SAYING NO

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)?

Saying no is tough for everyone, however it seems the most successful people say no… to almost everything.

  1. Gary Vaynerchuk says no to everything, as a default answer, however he still needs a healthy balance of 20% yeses to things that seem dumb, “because he believes in serendipity.”
  2. Aisha Tyler also says no to everything that doesn’t energise her personally or creatively.
  3. Samin Nosrat say “the more clear I am about what my goals are, the more easily I can say no.”
  4. Richa Chadha has have become better at saying no to things and people that drain her energy.
  5. For Veronica Belmont, her downtime is just as valuable as her uptime. When someone asks for anything during her free time, she says “Oh, that’s my binge-watching Netflix time. Sorry.”
  6. Steven Pinker says no to emails from strangers or distant acquaintances who seek time-consuming favours, often leveraging his influence and power.

9. STAYING FOCUSED

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? Again, the popular patterns include taking frequent breaks, meditation, working out, walking, and making lists. The most memorable ones:

  1. Neil Strauss thinks of his mind as a computer with a full RAM. “So best to shut it off for a little. Anything healthy that gets you out of your mind and into your body is ultimately good for your mind.”
  2. Amelia Boone tackles a chore, like scrubbing the bathtub.
  3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt likes writing in a journal. “By having to explain it to a “reader” with no prior knowledge, I’m forced to identify and parse all the elements and nuances of what’s really going on.”
  4. Jocko Willink detaches from the “mayhem”, prioritises, and executes.

I loved Richa Chadha’s answer. She has a few approaches, including the “so what” exercise: she makes a statement and asks herself “so what?” at the end:

  • X was rude.
  • So what?
  • I felt disrespected.
  • So what?
  • I don’t like being disrespected.
  • So what?
  • What if everyone stops respecting me?
  • So what?
  • I will be alone and loathed.
  • So what?
  • I don’t want to be alone.
  • So what?
  • I have an irrational fear of loneliness.
  • So what?
  • It’s irrational.
  • So what?
  • So nothing. I’m good.
  • So what?
  • So nothing.

10. BAD ADVICE

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise? There’s a diverse range of answers here. To me, the following ones stood out:

  1. David Lynch hates this: “Even if you don’t like it, do it for the money.”
  2. Steven Pressfield said “In the world of writing, everyone wants to succeed immediately and without pain or effort. Real work & real satisfaction come from going deep into something – the book you’re writing, the album, the movie – and staying there for a long, long time.
  3. Marie Forleo outlines that “a big mistake people make (when building an online following) is trying to be everywhere at once. They generate a ton of mediocre content to fill up a seemingly endless number of social feeds, which leads to dismal results.”
  4. Ben Stiller thinks that people are too obsessed with trying to figure out and emulating what’s “hot”. “Ultimately, you need to develop your own voice as a filmmaker or even as an actor. It takes time.”
  5. Soman Chainani has the unpopular opinion that artists should get a part-time job. “If art is your sole source of income, then there’s unrelenting pressure on that art. Having another stream of income drains the pressure on your creative engine.”
  6. Lewis Cantley’ believes the worst recommendation is “to keep your ideas & data secret until you have them on an (academic) paper. Multiple scientists with different experiences/expertise can collaborate and get to the right answer much faster than a single scientist.”
  7. For Jason Fried, the worst advice is to “raise capital to launch a software/services business.” Instead, he suggests that you bootstrap. “As in life, we form business habits early on. If you raise money, you’ll get good at spending money. If you bootstrap, you’ll be forced to get good at making money.”

11. ADVICE FOR STUDENTS

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

The overall consensus here is that long-term thinking, embracing adversity, persisting, exploring, and being kind & respectful towards others is the way to go. My favourite advice are below:

  1. Terry Crews wants you to Ignore any advice that tells you you are going to miss something. “Every mistake I have ever made in business, marriage, and personal conduct was because I thought if I didn’t do or get this now, it was never going to happen.”
  2. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on the other hand, advises young people to ignore all the absolutism around them, both in terms of ideas and people. “Adopting an attitude of critical thinking is most crucial in learning anything.”
  3. Similarly, Annie Duke suggests students to seek out dissenting opinions. “Always try to find people who disagree with you. Challenge yourself to truly listen to people who have differing ideas and opinions than you do.”
  4. Veronica Belmont puts it beautifully: “Don’t wait until you get a job to do the thing you want to be doing.”
  5. Gary Vee is even more action-oriented: “Macro patience, micro speed. They should not care about the next eight years, but they should stress the next eight days.”
  6. Kevin Kelly offers a different perspective: “Don’t try to find your passion. Instead master a skill that others find valuable. Once you master it, you’ll be rewarded with new opportunities that will allow you to move away from tasks you dislike and toward those that you enjoy. You’ll eventually arrive at your passion.”
  7. Finally, Strauss Zelnick & Tony Hawk tells students to figure out what success means to them. “Don’t accept others’ views or conventional wisdom.”

CONCLUSION

Key takeaways

  • Failures have shaped successful people. They brought them closer to their real self.
  • Most successful people invest in education/mentors, meditation, and in others’ success.
  • The most impactful habits for super-performers are meditation, walking, sleeping well, working out, no-sugar diet, expressing gratitude.
  • The most successful people say ‘no’ most of the time.
  • To stay focused, they take frequent breaks, meditate, work out, walk, and make lists.
  • For the young generation, they’d suggest long-term thinking, embracing adversity, persisting, exploring, and being kind & respectful towards others

Further reading

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Whether you are an overworked employee or an entrepreneur trapped in your own business, this book is the compass for a new and revolutionary world.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. This book shares the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action steps

1. Buy the physical book, keep it in your library, and revisit often or download the eBook on Amazon.

2. Browse the list of popular books (chapter 2) and start reading.

3. Find a successful person that’s accessible to you, and ask them to be your mentor.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.