If you watch my Instagram stories, you probably noticed I’ve spent a LOT of time in reading over the holiday. I love reading, especially when I have a book that I am excited to read over doing about anything else. My boss gives everyone who works for her a gift around the holidays, usually chocolate and a book. This holiday, the gift was Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss. As soon as I read the forward to the book I knew I was going to enjoy all 500 pages. The book features interviews with more than 100 brilliant people who are the top of their fields. He asks them all the same 11 questions. As insightful as it is to read how different all of their responses are, it’s also interesting how many of them are similar (side note: lots of people meditate, and most people have found a way to fit a regular workout routine into their schedule).
All though I claim to neither be brilliant, or anywhere near the top of my field (what is my field anyway?), I thought it would be fun to share my responses to his 11 questions here with you!
- What is the book (or books) you’ve given as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life? I honestly don’t think I’ve ever given books as gifts – besides cookbooks. Reading in general has greatly influenced my life, from reading and discussing romance novels with my best friends in college to passing Harry Potter and other fantasy books around my family to read. If I had to pick three that have greatly influenced my life (besides books like Harry Potter which have had a huge impact on everyone my age) – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (as probably the first non-fiction book I read outside of school), and You are Badass by Jen Sincero.
- What purchase of $100 or less has positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? I try not to buy a lot of stuff and fill my apartment with things that I don’t need, so everything I buy I get super excited for. Example, I just bought a new tripod after months of my old one not being able to hold my camera properly ($70 well spent!). It’s not under $100, but my Away suitcase makes my life SO much easier. I’ve had it for years now, but the Spotify Premium membership is game changer for me. I also just restarted my audible membership.
- How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours? I don’t like to think of them as failures so much as things not working out – jobs, relationships, apartments, opportunities, etc. If things are not working out, it means it isn’t the right one (or the right one at this moment) and there is something better waiting. I think the best example in my life is when I was looking to move on from my first job. I applied to pretty much everything for a long time, without much luck. But none of these also seemed like the right opportunity. The job I finally got was the best – what I was most excited about and everything I wanted and more. Had any of the other jobs worked out, I wouldn’t have found this one.
- If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say? “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” It’s been the screen saver on my phone for the past few months as a constant reminder to myself.
- What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? Painting my apartment! It seemed absurd to spend $1000+ painting an apartment I was renting, but it transformed the whole space, and how I feel when I’m home. It taught me that it makes a huge impact to make your living space feel like a home, even if you don’t plan on staying for long.
- What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love? I am an absurd thing that I love. I think I have a lot of unusual habits. I love to listen to podcasts while I’m getting my nails done or cooking. I’ve blown through everything on The Lively Show so I’ve started listening to Freakonomics and audiobooks. I find most music too distracting to listen to while I’m trying to work and read, unless it’s classical piano or ambient music – the peaceful piano playlist on Spotify is one of my favorites. I also love the “Deep Focus” and “Brain Food” playlists. I love walking – walking to work, walking to the grocery store – and listening to music along my way. Even if it’s just a 5 minute walk I’ll be wearing my beats headphones and listening to something.
- In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life? Keeping a gratitude journal! Ideally I would write three things every morning that I am grateful for before doing anything else. In reality there are a lot of days where I will come back and write my three things later in the morning. If I start feeling negative about something, or things seem to be going wrong throughout the day (think delayed flights, etc.), I’ll open google docs or notes and write a quick page of things I’m grateful for. It’s a fast, easy way to change my mindset about just about anything.
- What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore? Focus on learning about people. Your career path will likely make many changes throughout your life, many that you will not be able to anticipate now, but you will probably always have to work with other people. Learn to enjoy it and your life will be much easier!
- What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise? What is my area of expertise? I’ll divide this question into two. Bad recommendations in the field of structural engineering – “We didn’t become structural engineers to make money.” There is nothing wrong with making money! Bad recommendations in the field of blogging – “Do this for free. We will share it. You’ll reach new people.” Explain to me again why I should fit in your project around my already busy schedule and do free work? And no, I’m not so short on ideas to use the ones that you are mass sending to everyone with an email address on their instagram account. Why should I recommend this product just based off of photos you send me, never having tried it myself? No, thank you.
- In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to? Pretty much everything. Before I say yes to something (work, blog, or personal), I look at where it is, when it is, what other people will be there and what I’m really getting out of it. I have fun doing pretty much anything – staying home by myself included. So the fact that something will be “fun” is not enough of a reason. Are there other things I need to be doing? What am I doing on the day before and the day after? I’ll say no to anything that is going to interfere with taking care of myself (aka, working out, eating healthy-ish) and work.
- When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do? What questions do you ask yourself? What am I trying to do? Do I really need to do it right now? What do I want to be doing? I find that if I’m unfocused my brain is caught up in another place, and sometimes if I just let my brain do what it wants to do for a while, then I can come back and be completely focused on whatever I’m trying to do in the first place. A lot of times this is just a brain dump, maybe something that I want to write, or an idea I have, and if I take five minutes and write it in an email to myself, that’s enough. (Yes, my brain is basically a stubborn child.) If that isn’t the problem, getting up and making a cup of coffee or tea works well too.