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The “Interview Selfie” — 11 questions to ask yourself that provide a snapshot of your experience

“Success can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations we’re willing to have, and by the number of uncomfortable actions we’re willing to take.” Tim Ferriss

In his most recent book, Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss asked the same 11 questions to 100+ accomplished individuals, some well known, some not – here’s the list. The variety of responses range from inspiring to thought-provoking to amusing. And it moved me to answer these questions for myself, as if Ferriss was looking to pick my brain for useful nuggets.

So here’s what I'm calling my "Interview Selfie" --

1. 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?

I have promoted Think and Grow Rich for over 20 years to just about everybody. It’s required reading for all of my coaching clients as we begin working together. It was a life-changing book when I first read it, guided me to create my first “statement of major purpose” related to coaching. And although I suspect that author Napoleon Hill used a good measure of “poetic license” in its pages, the book’s principles for success are timeless.

2. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

My iPod Shuffle. This was several years ago, but for an investment of about 50 bucks I’ve been able to put innumerable educational audios on a handy one square-inch piece of metal. And I’ve downloaded a ton of Grateful Dead live shows from Archive.org on it. This has provided the soundtrack for hundreds of long bike rides over the years. Alas, the iPod Shuffle was discontinued in 2017 – fare ye well.

3. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

That’s easy: My first foray into coaching was back in the 1980’s, which is pre-historic in terms of the coaching profession. I had read a number of useful self-help books, was listening to educational audiocassette programs and had attended several one-day or weekend personal development workshops. After each workshop I was all psyched up to make positive changes in my life, then two weeks later, I returned to the way I had been. I realized that I needed ongoing support and accountability to make those changes over time. It dawned on me that other people needed this too, and that I would enjoy providing it.

So I came out of the gate full of enthusiasm, created a rudimentary coaching program, even got some paying clients. But I had no significant business experience, and within six months, with money going out faster than it was coming in, I folded. At the time I said to myself, “What a bad idea – I’ll never try THAT again!” Ten years later, with a lot more business and life experience under my belt, I got back on the coaching horse, am still riding.

4. 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?)

“If it were EASY to start up a successful business, everyone would do it. And then it would be worth the equivalent of flippin’ burgers at your local McDonalds.” – Jim Rohrbach (Yes, that’s an original line folks – please hold your applause to the end …)

5. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

Making the commitment to doing a morning success ritual, which takes me between 30 – 40 minutes at the start of each day. This includes reciting my Mission Statement, several affirmations for personal empowerment, statements of gratitude for all of my blessings and sending healing energy to those who need it. I finish with a 5 – 10 minute meditation/goal visualization. I haven’t missed a day in 20+ years – I wouldn’t leave home without brushing my teeth or flossing my mind. In this way I’m investing in a positive mental attitude every day.

6. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

My beloved Cubs used to be a joke until they won the World Series. The Grateful Dead have always been an inspiration, even when they were touring endlessly in the early 70’s without a hit record to grow their fan base. Some think it’s absurd to be a vegetarian – at home I am one. (I do insist on having sausage when I go out for deep-dish pizza.) But one thing that always gets people to laugh is when I pull out my seemingly ridiculous flip phone. I tell people I got it at an antique store. (Turns out I do not have the smart phone addiction that so many others struggle with, often have to help my clients get past it. Not so absurd after all, is it?)

7. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

It’s been over 10 years, but I read at least 40 business-related books a year, listen to at least 20 similar audio programs in that time frame. That’s how I find ideas to help myself and my clients. I track each one I read, put them in my monthly newsletter. None are downloads – I visit my local Evanston public library just about every weekend, go to the “new books” section to look at what’s available, which is where I found Tribe of Mentors. So I’m typically up on the best new business books that come out. And new books have a 2-week due date, which gives me the urgency I need to complete them – I hate paying late fines. (Talk about a worthwhile investment – a library card is FREE, which works well with my budget …)

8. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Best advice is to start with two classic books that were first published in the 1930’s: Read Think and Grow Rich, then How To Win Friends and Influence People in that order. Think and Grow Rich will help you understand the importance of programming your mind for success; How To Win Friends will teach you invaluable people skills that you can use for a lifetime. And, oh yeah – get over your resistance to selling. We’re all in sales, trying to get other people to do what we want them to do. So you might as well get good at it.

9. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“Coaches should only ask questions – the clients have all the answers.” If they had the answers, why would they hire ME??? Would you want to be coached on swimming by someone who says, “Just get in the pool, let’s see how you navigate the water?” Now that doesn’t mean I always start by advising my clients on their challenges – it’s initially best to see if they can work through an issue by being asked the right questions. But other times they are clueless about what to do in a certain situation – if I know the right approach I will tell them, then drill down on it.

10. 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 be an “approval-seeking junkie.” Luckily, I kicked the habit years ago, have gotten quite good at saying no to requests other people make of me if I’m not interested. My best tip: When someone wants you to do something, ask yourself: “Do I really want to do this, or am I just afraid this person will be mad at me or won’t like me if I say no?” This practice will allow you to be honest with yourself and others.

11. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

My strategy is to ask myself: Am I tired? If yes, I can take a nap or go to bed early. Am I tensed up? Then I need to go work out, which is a six-days-a-week habit, sometimes seven. And, do I have an issue with someone (usually my wife!)? Then, what appropriate conversation do I need to have with this person to clear the air?

Bottom line I enjoyed pondering these questions, found it stimulating, edifying and instructive to compare my ideas with those of everyone Ferriss interviewed in the book. Then I got down to writing my own responses. I highly recommend you try doing an Interview Selfie – take a stab at answering the 11 questions.  You’ll find it satisfying, as it will help you “know thyself.”

Wanna make it more interesting? Share your Interview Selfie with others, get their reaction. Then ask them to do their own, share it with you. This would deepen your understanding of each other – a great way to bond.

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