Tribe of Mentors. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
“Tribe of Mentors” is a solid book filled with top performers wisdom. While reading the book, I marked the answers that turned out to be most useful at the time of reading. Since “Tribe of Mentors” is a big book, I list in this part answers for the specific question.
I’m probably hopelessly out of date but my advice is get real-world experience: Be a cowboy. Drive a truck. Join the Marine Corps. Get out of the hypercompetitive “life hack” frame of mind. I’m 74. Believe me, you’ve got all the time in the world. You’ve got ten lifetimes ahead of you. Don’t worry about your friends “beating” you or “getting somewhere” ahead of you. Get out into the real dirt world and start failing. Why do I say that? Because the goal is to connect with your own self, your own soul. Adversity. Everybody spends their life trying to avoid it. Me too. But the best things that ever happened to me came during the times when the shit hit the fan and I had nothing and nobody to help me. Who are you really? What do you really want? Get out there and fail and find out.
[My advice is to] take risks, now. The advantages that college students and new grads have are their youth, drive, lack of significant responsibilities, and, importantly, lack of the creature comforts one acquires with time. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. Barnacles of the good life tend to slow you down, if you don’t get used to risk-taking early in your career.
I started numerous companies in my early 20s only to see them all fail, but
I never thought twice about starting the next one. I knew after the first one
that I loved the feeling of starting something, and I had almost no other
responsibilities. Eventually, one of the startups did work out, but I was
prepared to try as many times as it would take to win.
If you are your sole responsibility, this is the time to step outside of your
comfort zone, to start or join an exciting, risky project; to drop everything else
at the chance to be part of something really great. So what if it fails? You can
always go back to school, take that job at an investment bank or a consulting
company, move into a nicer apartment.
The advice to ignore (in certain situations) is to strive to become “well- rounded” — to move from company to company, looking to pick up different types of experience every year or two, when starting out. That’s useful in the abstract, but if you find that strength of yours (as an individual contributor or a team leader) at a company whose mission you are truly passionate about, take a risk — commit and double down, and rise through the ranks. Maybe you’ll be running the place before you know it!
Don’t wait until you get a job to do the thing you want to be doing. For most careers, showing that you have initiative by working on projects related to your future job is a great way to get a foot in the door. If you want to be a writer or journalist, start keeping a blog that you update regularly! If you want to be a programmer, create and maintain a project on GitHub. Anything that you can point to on your LinkedIn that screams, “Hey, I’m passionate about this!” works.
First, seek out dissenting opinions. Always try to find people who disagree
with you, who can honestly and productively play devil’s advocate. Challenge
yourself to truly listen to people who have differing ideas and opinions than
you do. Stay out of political bubbles and echo chambers as much as possible.
Feel good about really hearing those who disagree with you. Try to change
your mind about one thing every day.
The fact is that when two extreme opinions meet, the truth lies generally somewhere in the middle. Without exposure to the other side, you will naturally drift toward the extremes and away from the truth of the matter. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Because being wrong is just an opportunity to find more of the truth.
Second, stay flexible and be open to opportunities as they come your way. Most of the successful people I know did not know exactly what they wanted to do coming right out of college, and they changed their focus over the course of their careers. Be open to what the world brings your way. Don’t be afraid to change jobs or careers, no matter how much time you have already put into something. There is no urgency to have it all figured out. And feeling like you have it all figured out can make you stuck and close-minded to change.
Focus on your writing skills. It’s the one thing I’ve found that really helps people stand out. More and more communication is written today. Get great at presenting yourself with words, and words alone, and you’ll be far ahead of most.
Also, most of the stuff you’ll worry about doesn’t matter anyway. You’ll sweat so many details that no one will care about. It’s not that details don’t matter — they do — but only the right details matter. Pay close attention to what you’re spending your time on.
Time and attention are very different things. They’re your most precious resources moving forward. Just like you walk through the air and you swim through the water, you work through your attention. It’s the medium of work. While people often say there’s not enough time, remember that you’ll always have less attention than time. Full attention is where you do your best work, and everyone’s going to be looking to rip it from you. Protect and preserve it.
Macro patience, micro speed. They should not care about the next eight years, but they should stress the next eight days.
At a macro, I think everybody’s super impatient. I think I’m unbelievably patient in years and decades, and unbelievably sporadic and hyper every minute on a day-to-day basis. I genuinely think everybody’s the reverse. Everybody’s making decisions about, like, “What am I going to do at 25? I better do that. . . .” In years, they’re impatient and making dumb decisions, and then in days, they’re watching fucking Netflix. They’re super worried about 25 when they’re 22, yet they’re drinking every Thursday night at 7 P.M. They’re playing Madden. They’re fucking watching House of Cards. They’re spending four and a half hours on their Instagram feed every single day.
This is super important.
Everybody’s impatient at a macro, and just so patient at a micro, wasting your days worrying about years. I’m not worried about my years, because I’m squeezing the fuck out of my seconds, let alone my days. It’s going to work out.
Always take jobs for which you are not qualified; that way you will inevitably learn something. And do not drop out of college unless you truly have a better alternative. Some notable individuals have succeeded in spite of doing so, but it’s a serious obstacle to overcome for most people.
Don’t try to find your passion. Instead master some skill, interest, or knowledge that others find valuable. It almost doesn’t matter what it is at the start. You don’t have to love it, you just have to be the best at it. 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. If you continue to optimize your mastery, you’ll eventually arrive at your passion.
Be polite, on time, and work really fucking hard until you are talented enough to be blunt, a little late, and take vacations and even then . . . be polite.
Figure out what success means to you. Don’t accept others’ views or conventional wisdom. Write down what your successful personal and professional life looks like in 20 years. Then roll the clock back to today. Make sure your choices are in service of those goals.
When I was in my early 20s, I created a sort of watercolor picture of what life would look like decades later. For me, professional success meant having a significant equity stake in a large diversified media and entertainment company that I control. Personal success meant having a wife and kids I love, and living comfortably in the New York area. And that’s what my life looks like today. It’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone, but I did get much of what I set out to get. Today I’m pretty content most of the time.
I would tell them to invest time in themselves, to make sure they have some sort of physical activity in their life, and adhere to some form of nutrition that keeps them healthy. When that stuff falls apart, it can make other things more difficult.
Things to ignore: what other people or businesses are doing. When you’re not looking at what’s in front of you, you could have a very tragic misstep. That’s why racehorses have blinders on. If they look to the left or right, not only will they end up hurt, but everyone else will, too.
Most of the game is about persistence. It is the most important trait. Sure, when you get an opportunity, you have to perform and you have to exceed beyond all expectations, but getting that chance is the hardest part. So keep the vision clear in your head and every day refuse all obstacles to get to the goal.
Many of us have bought into the cliché “pursue your passion.” For many, that is terrible advice. In your 20s, you may not really know what your best skills and opportunities are. It’s much better to pursue learning, personal discipline,growth. And to seek out connections with people across the planet. For a while, it’s just fine to follow and support someone else’s dream. In so doing, you will be building valuable relationships, valuable knowledge. And at some point your passion will come and whisper in your ear, “I’m ready.”
[My advice:] Pursue every project, idea, or industry that genuinely lights you up, regardless of how unrelated each idea is, or how unrealistic a long-term career in that field might now seem. You’ll connect the dots later. Work your fucking ass off and develop a reputation for going above and beyond in all situations. Do whatever it takes to earn enough money, so that you can go all in on experiences or learning opportunities that put you in close proximity to people you admire, because proximity is power. Show up in every moment like you’re meant to be there, because your energy precedes anything you could possibly say.
Ignore the advice to specialize in one thing, unless you’re certain that’s how you want to roll. Ignore giving a shit about what other people think about your career choices or what you do for a living — especially if what you do for a living funds your career choices. Ignore the impulse to dial down your enthusiasm for fear it’ll be perceived as unprofessional. And especially for women, ignore societal and familial pressures to get married and have kids.
Don’t hold out for the perfect job or title. Don’t optimize for the slightly higher salary. Instead, focus on the only two things that actually matter.
Number one: Every step in your early career must get you incrementally closer to whatever genuinely interests you. The most promising path to success is pursuing genuine interests and setting yourself up for the circumstantial relationships, collaborations, and experiences that will make all the difference in your life. A labor of love always pays off, just not how and when you expect. Set yourself up to succeed by taking new jobs and roles that get you closer to your interests.
Number two: The greatest lessons you learn in the beginning of a career are about people — how to work with people, be managed by people, manage expectations with people, and lead other people. As such, the team you choose to join, and your boss, are huge factors in the value of a professional experience early in your career. Choose opportunities based on the quality of people you will get to work with.
Work harder than everyone else. Of course, that is easy when you love your job. But you might not love your first, or second, or even third job. That doesn’t matter. Work harder than everyone else. In order to get the job you love or start the company you want, you have to build your résumé, your reputation, and your bank account. The best way to do that: Outwork them all.
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