tribe of mentors

Timothy – Tim – Ferriss, best known for his book “The 4-hour Workweek”, has a new one out. In “Tribe of Mentors. Short Life Advice from the Best in the World” inspiring people answer a simple eleven questions. As I wrote to some people in my team “one can never have too many mentors”. This work learned me so much. A big portion of wisdom, a longlist of books I have to read and some topics I have to further explore online.


Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


I absolutely recommend you to read the book. And as a bonus you get here my answers to exactly the same questions.

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 ?

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 been together with my husband Filip for over 20 years. When we just met (weekend) diners would look like apero, starter, main, dessert and some liquor to finish off. Desserts would be like a dame blanche and mains would often be meat. When I got promoted manager of a big television channel business lunches and dinners would add on top of that.  I ended up taking an additional 10 kilograms, Filip close to 15. We radically shifted our food habits some years later and luckily lost the extras. When I first read “Food rules” by Michael Pollan, it looked like the food bible we had been practicing ever since.   Pollan has written plenty of scientific research based books on healthy food, but this pocket book with the wisdom of our grandmothers is the best advice ever I got on having a good diet. His idea is so simple  “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much” and guides me still today. I recently discovered the updated version with illustrations by Maira Kalman. I hope the book won’t get out of publishing because I need plenty more to hand out.

As a manager I was always interested in management books. Initially you read many of them but at a certain time stop doing that because the messages become repetitive. However “Reinventing organizations” by Frederic Laloux was an eye opener after 20 years of reading professionally. It is another book that is based on plenty of research but the illustrated version is what I recommend. Laloux explains how organizational setup moved from a military hierarchy to empowered teams. Next steps will be organizations where staff is steering fully independent. An interesting idea that will have to be tested in reality.

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

My home and office are in Geneva, but work sends me on the road almost every week. Last year I accumulated some 140 flights. I am not proud of my ecological footprint and  I try to compensate as much as possible. So traveling a lot, spending plenty of time in airports and discovering new beds all the time, means that I had to create a home away from home, wherever I am. When I get up in the morning I read the same newspapers on my iPad (De Morgen and De Tijd, two Flemish ones and The New York Times) and listen to my favorite Flemish news station Radio 1. Music creates my audio comfort zone. I constantly download playlists and new albums or newly discovered artists on Apple Music  and Spotify. This is where my AirPods protect me from the hectic world and give me quality time. Okay, they are slightly more expensive than 100 $.

And then there is Headspace. Although I consider myself to be very mindful by nature, I tried meditation on several occasions. Without success. Untill I discovered the app Headspace. It was the easiest but also the most pleasant introduction to meditation. The voice in my AirPods I discovered later is Andy Puddicombe. He is such a nice travel companion. It’s the best 50 $ spent. I should ask my Swiss health insurance company to pay back the investment and give me a credit on the overall subscription, because I feel much better ever since I follow this monk’s advice.

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

I worked for almost 25 years at VRT, the Flemish public broadcaster in Belgium. I started of as a reporter and ended as director television. I was next in line to be promoted to a position in the management board. But it didn’t happen. The then Director General wanted to team me up with a marketeer and have me to ensure the continuity. “You will make a great team”, she said. He will bring new insights and you will ensure that the factory keeps running. It didn’t work. And I don’t blame her. Moving on was one of the best decisions in my life.

If you could have one 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 ?)

I have two life mottos.

The first one is “Create order in the chaos and chaos in the order”.  It hangs as a billboard in my office as a daily reminder. As a director you are expected to manage things. To steer, guide and organize. I’m not telling anything new here. But the opposite is as true : where things are too organized or have become too institutional you have to shake things up. Either you suffer from disruption or you organize it yourself.

The second one doesn’t need any explanation : “Optimism is a moral duty”.

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

Your professional and private life have to be in balance. Last year I celebrated 20 years with my partner Filip. Although I work very hard, spend 7 days a week solving problems and exploring opportunities, and whilst traveling a lot, he is the person I come home to. We have invested a lot of time, energy, money and passion in our house and docking there together with him (and our two cats Jeltsie and Wolfie) is the midpoint of my life. He has been supportive in whatever I did. He celebrated my successes and gave me comfort when I was down. But the most important thing is that I listen to him. What he says is not always in line with what I think, but he opens my thinking and his advice has no other intention then pure honesty with me.

I hope that everyone can rely on such a person. It can be your partner, but also a friend or a member of your family.

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

I need to get the smell of things. Of all our senses and organs, smelling with your noise is most underestimated. Would the Epoisses cheese taste as good without the smell ?

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

I am very much into healthy food, but doing sports has never been a priority. When I was at school I was always the second last (or last) to be picked for the football team. Thinking back of it, it is a hard practice. The teacher appointing two leaders and have them pick the team. The ones that were chosen last, would publicly be offended as the weak parts of the team.

Having turned 50 and realizing that not only the food that gets into my body but my actual body is as important I hired myself a personal trainer. Every Saturday at 8 AM we meet for an hour. We do some cross training and I have to report back on my last week. What I ate and if I did any training whilst traveling. I can cheat to myself, but I can not cheat on him.

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

One doesn’t plan his career, it just happens. The most important thing is to follow your passion. Do something you like and get good at it. The rest will follow. I never planned my career. I studied interpreting but on a blue Monday landed a job with a television channel. I was a journalist at a talkshow for many years when suddenly the star of the show asked me to become the editor in chief. And then I moved on and became an advisor to management and afterwards a manager myself. First in charge of a few programs, then a television channel and ultimately all of the channels. And when I turned 50 I quit my job and started a new international career. And I am happy.

Every five years I mind map the situation as it is and explore the future. What are my strengths and my weaknesses ? How do I judge the balance between my private and professional life ? Where do I want to grow ? And how will I make myself and others happy ? Also, I seek advice from others during an out of the box lunch or dinner. Ask them openly how they perceive me, what advice they have for me and how I can become better. It’s amazing how open people are to give this advice and how many insights I take from them.

It now happens that people come to me for this sort of advice. And I like doing this. They give me as much as I give them. I listen a lot, don’t judge what they do, ask a lot of questions and tell them to draw a mind map. Mostly I share my latest mind map with them.

Don’t chase a career. Be good at what you do. Be passionate about what you do and listen to a handful of people you trust.

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

Plan your career.

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 am not good at saying no. Whatever I do, there is still the journalist in me and journalists then to be curious and accept whatever come along there way.

So I try to be less of a journalist and more of a hedonist.

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

With my current job, I am always on the move. I rarely sleep more than three nights in a row in the same bed. There is my flat in Geneva where I reside, I have a home in Brussels which I call home and I sleep in hotels. There is only one place that I call home and that is where my partner Filip is. I sleep best when he is around.

The two of us, but I on my own as well try to get out for a walk as much as possible. I try to do 10 000 steps a day. During weekends this is walking in town (shopping, wining and dining). During weekdays it is stepping in airports avoiding elevators

And I need to read. I read newspapers and magazines and aim to read about 30+ books a year. In good years, it can be up to 50. Some management books, a lot of fiction and books on art. Catalogues from the exhibitions we visited. The world is very rich, but the world in books is as enriching. Books frame the world, propose you an angle and make you think.

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