I finished reading "Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World" by Tim Ferriss


Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by four-time #1 best-selling author Tim Ferriss is fascinating look at how some of the world’s most successful people approach the challenges of life. Ferriss reached out to more than 100 top performers in the world (including writers, athletes, business owners, spiritual leaders, actors, entrepreneurs, investors, and more). Ferriss asked them to answer some version of the same basic 11 questions (some of them answered all of the questions, some answered a couple of them, and some crafted unique responses).
    
I found myself focusing on the responses to 3 of the questions: what failure set you up for success later on?; what advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the "real world" and what advice should they ignore?; and, what are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
   
As far as the best advice for young people about to enter the real world, I really liked what TED curator Chris Anderson had to say. Anderson said "pursue your passion" is terrible advice for students about to enter the working world (page 409). What people in their 20s really need, Anderson says, is to work on personal discipline, learning and growth; the passion will develop in due time. Amen to that! Lots more good tips like that in Tribe of Mentors — plus plenty of mundane advice as well.
   
Tribe of Mentors is a handy, valuable compilation of useful advice from high achievers across many different walks of life. Truly fascinating to get a glimpse at how some of these high achievers approach challenges, and sometimes you might find tips that you can use. Click here to check the price at Amazon
  

Larry Norman: the troubled troubadour of Christian rock


Why Should The Devil Have All the Good Music:Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Thornbury is a fascinating look at a complex figure. With iconic long white-blonde hair, Norman was the father of Christian rock, and arguably the most consequential Christian artist of the past 50 years. 

Thornbury is a very talented writer, and it is fortunate he had access to Norman's archives, including handwritten diaries, journals, photos, studio record logs, passports, plane tickets, letters, newspaper clippings, as well as tape recordings Norman made of several conversations with his first wife as well as business meetings. (Wait, what, tape recordings?)

Plenty of interesting stuff about the early days of the Christian rock movement, the ups and downs of Norman’s career and his marriages, and his fathering of an illegitimate son (more about that below).

It was a little jarring to read about Larry Norman's continual relationship problems: he barely got along with anybody. Norman seemed to consistently "derail" relationships throughout his life, Randy Stonehill once said. That’s putting it mildly. On page 187, Thornbury writes, “Once close friends, the relationship between Phil Mangano and Larry Norman began to disintegrate." The same could be said of almost everyone who entered Larry Norman's orbit, whether through a personal friendship or a business relationship. Eventually they ended up feeling hurt or manipulated or betrayed by Norman.

The level of broken relationships in Norman’s life is far beyond what you would expect from someone who was merely eccentric, or even a creative genius.

So, what is the explanation? Norman often blamed his difficulties on a 1978 incident when he was on a United Airlines flight. Norman said an airplane ceiling panel came loose and struck him on the head, causing significant physical and mental problems. Yet Phil Mangano was on that flight, and has said the incident was not that serious.

I wish Thornbury had explored the mental health angle. There is certainly a solid basis to suspect Norman had mental health issues: Pam Alquist says in the documentary Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman, “Larry told me there was a lot of mental illness in his family and he wasn’t (mentally ill) because he had Jesus. And yet over the years he had a lot of idiosyncrasies.”

Norman's career does have similarities with another musical genius, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Wilson had a long struggle with drugs and mental illness (schizoaffective disorder), and experienced significant conflicts with Mike Love and others.

My one major complaint about this book, and the reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5: I don’t think the book adequately grappled with the issue of Norman’s illegitimate son. Thornbury plays it coy: he acknowledges there is anecdotal evidence that Norman had an out of wedlock son, but since a DNA test was never taken, he won’t say with 100% certainty that Norman was the father. Come on now, you don't need a DNA test to do the right thing.

Yet, reading Chapter 13 it seems obvious that Norman and his sister-in-law Kristin Blix put up roadblocks that made it difficult for a DNA test to be completed before Norman diedin much the same way Norman slow-rolled Daniel Amos and the release of their Horrendous Disc album in the 70s. (Page 197.)

(BTW, after Norman died, journalist Arsenio Orteza did a pretty thorough accounting of the saga for World Magazine—including verified emails between Larry and Daniel—here; Daniel’s mother lays out her side of the story here.)

It is unfortunate that Daniel Robinson suffers one more indignity in Thornbury’s book; in the footnotes, he is called "David Robinson" instead of his real name, Daniel Robinson (see photo below). 


Larry Norman was troubled soul who spoke prophetically to the Christian church, even as his personal life was a mess. Thornbury has written a compelling and engaging book that will make you think. See it at Amazon here.

I enjoyed reading this book over Christmas


A Christmas Memory is Truman Capote's recounting of his Christmases in the 1930s, when he lived in a house with several older relatives. He becomes close to a much older eccentric cousin he calls “my friend,” and they share a unique bond during the Christmas season. 
  
A Christmas Memory was first published in the December, 1956 issue of Mademoiselle Magazine and later put into book form.
   
I read it for the first time this Christmas. A Christmas Memory is endearing, the same way that Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is endearing. My eyes got misty toward the ending. My wife read it, and she loved it too. A Christmas Memory is worthy of being included with the other great Christmas books that families like to display and read during Christmas season. I have the Alfred A. Knopf hardcover edition, beautifully illustrated by Beth Peck (see sample illustration below). To buy this book from Amazon, click here.


Four Books That Can Change Your Life In 2019


Here is my list of the top four books that can help make 2019 your most successful year yet. The tips, insights and new perspectives in these books will help you work smarter, plus give you more confidence and energy in 2019. 
    

This book by Dilbert cartoonist and bestselling author Scott Adams is about what works and what doesn’t in the game of life. This book is packed with fresh insight about the simple things anyone can do to become successful, and I really enjoyed reading it. “Goals are for losers, systems are for winners,” Adams likes to say. It sounds jarring and counter-intuitive, but what he means is, setting up a regular system to follow is always more effective than setting goals. Goal-oriented people mostly fail and feel unsatisfied. (Example―if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you will constantly think that you are not at your goal until you reach it.) A more effective and satisfying approach is to set up a system and follow it. This is a humorous, easy-to-read book with lots of insight and fresh perspectives. This would be an ideal book for someone who has just graduated from college and is beginning their career — but even someone two decades or more into the working world will find plenty of ideas to put to use. Click here to buy from Amazon. 
  
2.Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Lee Duckworth


Duckworth argues that the key to success isn’t talent or IQ but a combination of passion and persistence known as “grit.” Chapter 7 alone — “Practice” — is worth the price of the book. I happened to read “Grit” while I was training for a strenuous cycling event, and after reading about the way “gritty” athletes approach practice I changed how I was training. Duckworth says elite performers practice differently than other people—they engage in deliberate practice to work on their weaknesses or to reach specific objectives. So after reading “Grit” I started training with more intensity, doing focused drills and exercises to build leg strength, cardio, and mental toughness. The new, “gritty” approach paid off for me, and I successfully completed the cycling event. Click here to buy from Amazon.  
   

Sometimes it's tempting to skip over classic books because they seem too old-timey. Whatever you do, do not skip How to Win Friends & Influence People. For decades, the time-tested advice in this book has carried countless people up the ladder of success. Among the vital success tips in this book: the six ways to make people like you; the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking; and, the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment. Adopting only a few of the easy tips to help you get along with and influence the people in your life can be transformative. Click here to buy from Amazon.
   

Tribe of Mentors by four-time #1 best-selling author Tim Ferriss is a must-read book for anybody who wants to get to the next level. Ferriss reached out to more than 100 top performers in the world (including writers, athletes, business owners, spiritual leaders, actors, entrepreneurs, investors, and more) to identify the key tips and techniques they use to be productive and successful. Tribe of Mentors is a handy, invaluable compilation of their secrets for success. Click here to buy from Amazon.