I’ve been listening to the Tribe of Mentors podcast by Timothy Ferris and in the related book, he talks about the 11 questions he sent out to get people to respond. He’s got a great discussion about how he refined the questions, and why he chose those questions in that order, and I’d recommend checking out the book and the podcast. I thought it would be interesting for me to answer them. If I’m going to write a blog, I should give you some insight into who I am.
The questions he asks all his interviewees are:
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?
- Extreme Programming (principles procedures and practices) – not just about writing code, but about the context that code is written in.
- Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – it’s about quality, it’s about finding a greater goal amid everything that knocks you along the way.
- A Brief History of Time – it’s about perspective.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
To give me a significantly more productive commute:
- I have a small notebook that I can carry in my pocket, from my local supermarket;
- A cheap bluetooth earphone for listening to podcasts, which is good for voice, but not great for music;
- Pocket casts for managing my podcasts. I also set it up to auto-play whenever I turn by earphone on.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
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?)
“Do not compare yourself to others for you may become vain or bitter. There will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”Desiderata, Max Ehrmann
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
My PhD. I learned discipline, I took the opportunity to learn lots of new technologies, and to sit in on some random lectures.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
I love weird films and music, such as Trout Mask Replica, Eraserhead. Things that I don’t choose all the time, but reset my expectations about what art can be. It’s always good to get a refresh to help my problem-solving and avoid getting stuck in a rut.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Regular blogging. It has helped me to crystallise my thoughts; share ideas with others, and my future self; and led to some great conversations.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
It’s OK if it takes you a few years to find the right job for you. It’s ok to have a few jobs on your CV if you have a reason to move. Treat them as a chance to find out who you are, and don’t let golden handcuffs make that decision. Bank the cheque in case you need a parachute.
Don’t work on your free time to get a job. Do what you enjoy. Climb hills. Practice the guitar. Volunteer at the hospice. Spend time with friends and family. Jobs that require you to learn on your own time are jobs that don’t respect you.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
April Wensel covers this better than me. I felt an unease about things, but April Wensel managed to capture it much better than I could. Don’t be a hero. Be a team player. Don’t follow these toxic tips.
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 became a dad during this period, and time has become far more precious as a result. Family comes first. So less TV in the evenings, more time with my daughter, more together time with my wife. Less news, less shouting at the TV. If it’s not something that I’m passionate about, or will help my family, me or my friends, I can’t justify the time.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
Go back to my task list. What’s the best thing to do now that my future self will thank me for?