I have some bad news. No one wants to get coffee with you.
I’m not saying this to be mean! It’s just…people are busy. And those well-meaning emails sent to people you admire, seeking their wisdom or advice about asking for a raise or your career change, are slowly getting buried in the inboxes of these very busy people. Meanwhile, you wait.
But you don’t have to. There’s an easier—and faster—way to learn from the best of the best. If you’re looking for a mentor, follow the advice of experts who are already widely sharing their wisdom—and, more importantly, their mistakes. No matter your background, you can find someone who’s already speaking your language and absorb their stories with these three game-changing books.
Originally known as the four-hour workweek dude, Tim Ferriss has transformed himself into an expert podcaster who’s skilled at eliciting actionable recommendations from his guests, ranging from Brene Brown to Ray Dalio. He’s compiled their nuggets of advice into Tribe of Mentors and, at nearly 600 pages, it’s definitely not a gulp-in-one-go book. I treated each interview like an appetizer, and read a few pages every morning with my coffee. Mantras that have rolled around in my head all year include this bumper sticker from director Darren Aronofsky: “The best work always comes from pushing the edge.” And from chef Eric Ripert: “I believe that to find contentment and to be at peace with yourself, you must have a positive impact on anyone you interact with each day. You also must not allow others’ negative energy to lessen or alter you; you should stay true to your beliefs.” See? Fortune cookie inspiration that works.
From a bro-y bro to the world’s spiritual mother, embrace your soulful side with Oprah’s The Wisdom of Sundays. Featuring excerpts compiled from her Super Soul Sunday series, this is basically the most Oprah-y people in the world revealing their thoughts on intention, gratitude, and more topics that, depending on your stomach for deep emotions, might make you grumble. But if (when) you do give in, it’s hard not to be inspired. My copy is so dog-eared it belongs in an animal shelter. The beloved Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön wants to help you deal with ego: “Making friends with it means to know it 100 percent completely,” she says. “Don’t reject it. Believe it or not, that’s how you begin to become a more egoless person.” And Diana Nyad, who swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64, has some thoughts on “impossible” goals: “The will is so undefinable and can push you so far beyond.” This was my before-bed reading for a month and I’ve never slept better.
Finally, for jumping from novice to expert, there’s Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal. Snapshots of people like the artist Marina Abramović and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark are written in short first-person biographies with “pearls” of advice. But of course it was the Omaha oracle Warren Buffett who continues to ring in my head: “The triumphs in life are triumphs because you know that not everything is going to be one. If you played golf and got a hole in one on every hole, you’d get bored,” he says. “Part of the fun is hitting one into the woods and then getting a great recovery shot.”
That metaphor applies to these mentors, too. Not every person is going to be the right fit, but when you do find one who resonates, it feels like sinking a perfect shot. So save your coffee money and read between these lines instead.