One of my favourite podcasts is the Tim Ferriss Show. Among the many things Tim is successful at in addition to a podcast host, is being an author. Of his books, there is one called Tribe of Mentors: Short life advice from the best in the world, presumably about life advice that is short rather than advice about living a short life. It is based on answers to 11 really good questions that Tim needed to answer for himself at one point in his life, and of which he asked some people who he most admired to see what they would say so he could learn from the best. A sample can be heard in this podcast episode link, along with more about the questions and their sequence.
Personally, I love good, thoughtful and/or philosophical questions that are useful and not just theoretical. So in addition to reading and listening to answers from the book to learn, I thought I’d give them a try first. From answers I will give, I will analyze to see what I didn’t like, or which I thought I could improve on, to see if I can obtain a better answer some time over the next few years, decade, or even some point in the rest of my life. That’s because these questions aren’t just useless and/or silly thought experiments. No. A good answer for any one of these questions can really make a difference in one’s life, even if it wouldn’t always be some grand, life altering kind, though a few might be. At the least, I will end up with a great story for each answer. So on with the eighth post in this series, and Tim’s Question #8.
8. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
A smart and driven college student would probably be keen to get lots of things done, climb the corporate ladder if that were their thing, and/or pursue their passion with zeal. For those reasons, I would actually advise them to be patient and humble. Get themselves stabilized in life before taking those leaps, especially financially because that will be like a deadweight following them around so the sooner they can plan and feel confident about how they will get rid of it, the better. You’ll notice I didn’t say the sooner they can get rid of it, because it’s about the balance of opportunities and costs here, not lose it at all costs since some opportunities can’t wait. Also to this end, be humble. Find your way into a place or job and prove yourself there, rather than expecting you’ve proved yourself already with some name dropping degree or marks and expecting to enter at a higher level than you might realistically be able to. If you were truly good at it, you’ll get there soon enough, in that place or job, or another because the corporate world is a bit less merit based than the academic one, not that the latter is all merit-based, either.
As for what advice to ignore, I would say the generic and blind “do what you love”. If you have a good and feasible plan for it, then go for it, albeit still slowly and with care, being patient and humble. But don’t just blindly go for it on the grounds of “I’ll make it work somehow” because you were smart and driven in school. There are many people who succeeded that way and their stories are inspirational, yes, but there are many more who tried that and failed. You just never hear much about them because nobody wants to write about them, and those who share their cautionary tales don’t often get a big audience due to the same people inspired by those who succeeded saying “you should have known better” to those who failed for having done the exact same thing, then justifying it somehow like those who failed weren’t smart or driven enough. Do these people judging really know? Did those who succeeded and failed really know? I’m betting not, so I would advise not to follow them.
Make a solid plan (meaning get it critiqued by others qualified to do to strengthen it so if you can), be humble about it all, and be patient about it all.
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