A client of mine is a big fan of Tim Ferriss. I read Tim Ferriss’s top selling book, “The 4-Hour Workweek” when it first came out in 2009. I liked it well-enough but it didn’t leave an imprint on me. When my client recommended I check out Tim’s weekly email newsletter, “5-Bullet Friday,” I did so and was surprised to enjoy it. Then Tim Ferriss kept popping up everywhere. He’s matured, his work has evolved, and he’s got my attention again.
One of the “5-Bullet Friday” emails had a quote that Tim is currently pondering…
“All our previous positions are now exposed as absurd. But people don’t draw the obvious conclusion: it must also mean then that our present situation is absurd.” – Terence McKenna
I’m having a strong reaction to this quote. I think … So True! And … I also think … Nope…I don’t agree. As a writer, speaker, and coach … I worry about advice I share. I know as I grow and evolve that I often change my mind. I read old articles of mine and think about how I see things slightly different now. When I learn about an author or see a TED Talk from a motivator that inspires me … I typically don’t want to consume their earlier work … I want to stay with their current level of wisdom and enlightenment because that is what resonated with me. However, I don’t expect their earlier work to be “absurd.” That’s too strong.
This is important as we find ourselves in mentor roles. Work Managers, Church Ministry, Parents, Grandparents, Aunts/Uncles, Cousins, Family Friends, Volunteering, Neighbors etc. We all have messages that represent how we have lived, loved, and navigated our lives. How we share those messages depends on both ourselves and the person we may choose to mentor. In coaching, we talk about “meeting people where they are.” That means if someone is working on personal growth, as a coach, we are careful not to get ahead of the client. They can only hear what they are ready to hear … we earn our wisdom lesson by lesson … not all at once.
My challenge to Terence McKenna’s quote is that while I might agree that a previous position may be exposed to me as “absurd” now … At the time I made that position, it held value. What I believe to be true is that multiple years from now, that position will still hold value for others who are at a different place on their life journey. We all do this in our mentoring. We share a story that had so much weight at the time and realize exactly how we would handle the situation now. It would be totally different and not as big of deal. Yet … the current wisdom we have is from the weight of that past situation. We create a position/message to teach from, but some mentees won’t be able to see our current wisdom yet … it will be something in the story of the past that speaks to them more.
My conflicting reaction of YES to McKenna’s quote is that I feel like that reminder of positions being “exposed as absurd” is the reminder that we will change our minds about a lot of things. It all matters at the time and not so much later. I think that is great fun and takes a lot of pressure off ‘putting yourself out there’ and getting involved. I heard Oprah say recently on her show, Super Soul Sunday, “I knew when I was doing interviews if I’m thinking it, at least 5 or 10 others at home are thinking it.” (paraphrase). Oprah went with her instincts. She took a position in the moment. It worked. And yet she continues to evolve as a public voice.
As humans we love a hero’s story. We role model by changing our positions, evolving, and being honest about it. Just as the Tim Ferriss of 2009 looks different to me than Tim Ferriss today, he is role modeling his growth to his fans. We all do this every day. When I worked at a very large company that valued mentorship, I wanted to hear the stories of the women who climbed the corporate ladder before me. I wanted to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone and that it was all worth it. I wanted to know their hero’s journey. And the part of their stories that spoke to me the most, was the place in each woman mentor’s past that mirrored where I was currently. Those past positions they held weren’t “absurd” to me at all.