Last year was an interesting year for me. I turned 40, lost several close friends of mine, and came to some sobering realizations that often strike people who are in the middle of their lives. I didn’t have a midlife crisis per se, more of a midlife reassessment. So over the past year, I’ve been reaching out to dozens of people I consider my mentors to ask them for life advice. I call the brilliant group of peak performers I chose my tribe of mentors — over 100 in all — and they helped me answer the one question I often ask: What would this look like if it were easy? Only this time, “this” was “life.”
Frankly, I wish I’d started the process of building my tribe of mentos years ago. Which is why, at every chance I got, I asked my mentors what advice they had for young people long on intelligence and drive, but short on real world experience. Here is a collection of their thoughts, pulled from my book Tribe of Mentors.
Get real-world experience.
“I’m probably hopelessly out of date but my advice is get real-world experience: Be a cowboy.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.”
— Steven Pressfield, the best-selling author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, The Afghan Campaign, and The Lion’s Gate, as well as the cult classics on creativity, The War of Art, Turning Pro, and Do the Work.
Develop your writing skills
“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.”
— Jason Fried is the co-founder and CEO of Basecamp (previously 37signals).
Have something to look forward to
“Make sure you have something every day you’re looking forward to. Maybe it’s your job, maybe it’s a basketball game after work or a voice lesson or your writing group, maybe it’s a date. But have something every day that lights you up. It’ll keep your soul hungry to create more of these moments.”
— Soman Chainani — The School for Good and Evil, has sold more than a million copies, has been translated into more than 20 languages across six continents, and will soon be a film from Universal Pictures.
Love the process, not just the outcome
“If you are struggling to figure out where you are headed in life or what you are passionate about, pay attention to activities, ideas, and areas where you love the process, not just the results or the outcome. We are drawn to tasks where we can receive validation through results, but I’ve learned that true fulfillment comes from love of the process. Look for something where you love the process, and the results will follow.”
— Amelia Boone is a four-time world champion in the sport of obstacle course racing (OCR) and is widely considered the world’s most decorated obstacle racer.
Don’t be too eager for credit
“Be in a hurry to learn, not in a hurry to get validation. In a team environment, you will make a much better impression if it seems like you’re not at all worried about yourself. It’s okay to actually be worried about yourself — everyone is — just don’t seem like it. If you resist asking for too much, you will often get more.”
— Evan Williams is the co-founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium.
Limit your technology addiction
“I would advise them to be much more mindful and deliberate about their relationship with technology. Technology allows us to do amazing things, but we have become addicted to it. And that’s by design — product designers know how to addict us in the race to dominate the attention economy. But there are ways to — as Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, puts it — “unhijack your mind.” [For example] one tip is to scramble apps regularly, which interrupts the conditioning we all have to the pattern of apps on our phones. Creating this pattern interrupt will make it easier to be more mindful about phone use, creating just a little bit of space and time in which people can decide for themselves whether they really need to use their phone or whether they’re grabbing it out of boredom or habit.”
— Arianna Huffington has been named to Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and Forbes’ “Most Powerful Women” list.
Macro patience, micro speed
“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.”
— Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia, a full-service digital agency servicing Fortune 500 clients.
Remember: A tennis ball, a circle, and the number 30,000
“If I had a cheat sheet I could give myself at 22, it would have three things on it: a tennis ball, a circle, and the number 30,000.
The tennis ball is about finding something that you can become obsessed with, like my childhood dog who would go crazy whenever anyone threw a ball for her. The most successful people I know are all obsessed with solving a problem that really matters to them.
The circle refers to the idea that you’re the average of your five closest friends. Make sure to put yourself in an environment that pulls the best out of you.
And the last is the number 30,000. When I was 24, I came across a website that says most people live for about 30,000 days — and I was shocked to find that I was already 8,000 days down. So you have to make every day count.”
— Drew Houston is CEO and co-founder of Dropbox.
Want to Win Every Day?
If so, here are 5 things to do right after you roll out of bed. It’s a checklist that will help you win the morning — so you can win your day, and your life.
Originally published at medium.com