Council of Mentors

Reflecting on an exercise I did as part of a men's group in college.

January 11, 2021 | 2 minute read

I was part of a men’s group back in college. Before I go further, it’s probably not what you think. It was not associated with a fraternity. We did occasionally meet at a cigar bar near campus. But we mostly met on the quad or in someone’s basement and talked about books. We were far too nerdy to be chauvinistic.

One exercise we did that was extremely useful was to create what we called a Council of Mentors. The idea was simple: pick five people you want to emulate in some way and study them deeply over the course of your life. They can be living or dead and you can pick them for any reason that seems defensible to you. Then you read as much as you can about them.

I first did that exercise nine years ago and I’ve kept it in mind ever since. Who did or is doing something kind of like what I want to do? Most of the people in my council of mentors have turned over. Back then, they were mostly historical figures, which has limited utility. My council is still made up of public figures, but most are living and just a few levels above where I am right now.

Council Members

Nat Eliason just hired a CEO to run the agency he founded a few years ago. I just started my agency and am looking at (hopefully) making my first few hires this year and turning it into a real business.

Naval Ravikant is successful and happy. But he isn’t just happy, he’s annoyingly happy.

Andrew Wilkinson started MetaLab, a very successful design agency, and leveraged that into Tiny, a holding company that buys and holds businesses and helps them grow. This is a unique passion, but I would absolutely love to do this long-term.

Shane Parrish runs Farnam Street, a blog about thinking, investing, learning, decision making. I admire that Shane has carved out a job for himself where he gets to learn about the things he’s most interested in and share that with people.

Teddy Roosevelt. Needs no introduction. He’s a goofy character and an OG member of the Council.

Create Your Own Council

Finding people to be on your council is actually pretty easy. Think about this:

I want to be like so-and-so, for X.

Who is so-and-so? What is X?

The disclaimer here is that you can’t copy anyone and you shouldn’t try. But you can (and should) learn from people. In doing so, you create your own North Star by triangulating off a few bright stars in the sky.