Ferriss's Eleven Questions
Here are my (current) answers to Tim Ferriss's eleven questions from Tribe of Mentors.
What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham
The Introverted Lawyer, by Heidi Brown
Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
The book Solo by Choice, by Carolyn Elefant
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
On one of the first times that I flew as the aircraft commander (responsible for everything that happened on the flight) we were supposed to drop a recoverable (fake) torpedo near a (fake) submarine as a final test before going somewhere that mattered. We dropped the torpedo. Instead of bobbing back up to surface it sank. Turns out I missed a step in the pre-takeoff checklist: I thought that the person on the ground's "thumbs up" meant that he had done that step. He thought that my "thumbs up" meant that I had taken care of it. When your boss, who just recently asked you "are you ready to be a helicopter aircraft commander?" has to send a radio message to D.C. explaining why a "recoverable" torpedo was emphatically not recoverable (and in another country's waters), you cease to be his favorite pilot.
But I never looked at a checklist (or, later, a legal problem) the same again. Every procedure, even if it is mundane and done by rote, is worth looking at with the question, "what ambiguity are we not seeing here?"
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?)
What would you do if you weren't afraid?
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
Any time that I have spent trying to become a better husband and father.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
I love the smell of jet exhaust.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Sitting in mindfulness every day.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
Advice to follow: watch Admiral McRaven's graduation address to U.T. Austin's Class of 2014.
Advice to ignore: "Fake it till you make it"; "It is what it is"; "What they don't know won't hurt them."
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Any variation of "Suck it up" or "Power through it".
"Take the road less traveled." No. Do you realize that the whole point of that poem is that we all engage in self-delusion?
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?
I used to work after hours on things that should not need to be done after hours. I learned to stop. There are things that need to be done now, and sometimes that means after hours. But if you are working on things at night that do not, by their nature, need to be done that night, you have made a planning error. The work will be there tomorrow. You might not be. Change your intake procedures if normal work has become after hours work.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
Stop. Breathe in and out ten times, being aware of my inbreath and outbreath. Forgive myself for losing focus. Move on.