How would you answer these interview questions?

I thought I would have a go at answering the questions Tim Ferriss posed to some of the most successful individuals on the planet in Tribe of Mentors. I found writing this article very rewarding and I recommend anyone to try this out, even if you do not intend on sharing it with others. Just to clarify, I was not interviewed by Tim Ferriss and it is highly unlikely I ever will be, but, one can dream.

What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The Game by Neil Strauss, So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport and Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall.

Let me begin with the first one, The Game. When I initially explain this book to friends and family, they look at me with disgust as they assume that I am suggesting one of my greatest influences in life is the story of a guy who is renowned for being able to seduce women.

In my opinion that is a very superficial way to look at this book by Neil Strauss. The story itself is entertaining, but the lessons learned about life, persuasion, personal branding, success, love and relationships were so captivating for me. 

So Good They Can’t Ignore You, really hammered down the idea about becoming skillful rather than focusing on the hundreds of other variables we worry about at work.

The third book took me completely by surprise as I got it as part of a deal when I bought Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari which are both very good books. Tim Marshall illustrates brilliantly why the world is the way it is today and covering a specific region in each chapter, he really plugged the gaps in my knowledge. I felt like I became a professor in world history by the end of the book.

What purchase of $100 or less has positively impacted your life in the last six months?

Asana. It is a online project management tool that is extremely useful for organising my tasks.

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

Using “favourite” really doesn’t reflect my emotional state at the time. It all started well enough, I was handpicked at a campus fast-track event hosted by an investment bank to go straight to their final assessment centre. I felt I had it all under control as I was not stranger to assessment centres and I did mock interviews, prepared printed out case studies complete with graphs, statistics and vibrant colours. When the day came, I put on my best suit, polished shoes and carried a new leather briefcase I bought especially for the event.

At the assessment centre, everything was going according to plan, in fact after the speed networking session, the last person I spoke to told me “See you here next summer, you’ve got this.” Then it came to the panel interview where things took a turn for the worst. In front of me were three senior members of the bank, who since the networking session had seemed to have lost all emotion from the faces. I greeted each one as they entered the room and they mutely reciprocated with a small tilt of the head. The interview, progressed in a standard fashion, “Why investment banking?”, “Name a time you have worked in a team.” etc. However, whenever I would answer it seemed as if I was trying to chat up a brick wall. They just sat there and stared. Then, after I finished my answer, they moved on to the next question.

This was fine, then about 15 minutes into the interview, I am cut-off by random comments such as “Do you make everything about yourself?!” When answering a brain teaser, I was getting close to the solution and the most senior individual in the room snarled “That guy from Cambridge University got this in about 15 seconds, what is it taking you so long!”, I replied that I was illustrating my thought process and didn’t feel that his comment was particularly useful. Eventually, the interview boiled down to me explaining something I did and they proceeded to break it apart as if I was lying or insulting their intellect. Now you may think that they were using an interview technique but the lack of professionalism and reasoning behind the comments made little sense. I have had hard interviews; they were not like this.

After leaving that room I was emotionally exhausted and even though I had two more interviews to go I felt that I had very little to play for. Within five minutes, I was escorted for the next task. The individual interviewing me this time was less senior and in fact we got on quite well. When we got to the meeting room that I was supposed to have my interview, a group of bankers were having a meeting and were running very much overdue. The interviewer knocked politely and informed the group of his intentions and that he had booked the room. The group simply cackled and hissed as if he told them that their bonuses were being cut. We stood outside for another 15 minutes and the group of bankers were still in the room. The interviewer signaled to the group that it was urgent. They ignored him. Once they finally left, one of the bankers went over to the interviewer and whispered a few words to him like a sinister mafia boss to a henchman who failed to capture the Batman. I saw the uncomfortable look on the interviewer’s face. I felt sorry for him.

I didn’t get the role in the end. The feedback I received afterwards was ‘you need to put more detail in your answers’ even though it seemed as if nobody cared about what I said anyway. As I had no more career options left on the table, I became very insecure about my future and I felt emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. After a few days, I fell ill with a very high fever and I didn’t eat and barely consumed any liquids for 5 days. This evidently had a huge impact on my academic work and I was lucky enough that my girlfriend at the time was able to offer her support so that I wasn’t alone in this mess.

At the end of the ordeal, I had failed in so many areas but only once you reach that low point, you can you start to build from foundations. I also realised that I would never work for a corporation that treats its employees in the way I witnessed on that day. The most important thing about my failure was that it cleared the way for me to take up a role doing something I really enjoyed and allowed me to grow exponentially as an individual. Do not expect to understand your failures immediately, especially large ones (it took me 9 months), but as long as you are obsessed with improvement you will reach your end goal or most likely surpass it.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?

“If you are going to do something, at least have some fun doing it” – Alec Gehlot

That’s right, I just made my own quote. Anyway jokes aside, I always try to have fun with whatever I am doing because whenever I take life too seriously, I get stressed and therefore I cannot work optimally. If I am doing something and I have not smiled or laughed during the entire process, then I know I should not be taking this project further or I need to shake things up.

Which is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

Investing in myself whether that be through the people I associate with or projects I take on, by becoming a better individual, I have been able to contribute much more socially, therefore enabling me to invest more in others.

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

Superheroes, ever since I was a child I wanted to have superpowers, in fact not so long ago, I was up until 3 a.m. on a weekday just watching YouTube analysis of what to expect from the Avengers: Infinity War film, however I try to discipline myself as I know there are better things I should be doing with my time.

In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life

Reading, nothing else comes close. Since I started reading excellent books regularly, all aspects of my life have improved.

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

If you want to be successful, you have to work 24 hours a day at 100% intensity. Adopting this mentality as I did especially back in my second year of university may lead to initial benefits at the start but it is very unsustainable and the burnout and turmoil it can create for you and those around you, definitely means that it is not worth it. I still work hard now but I do it by trying to maximise efficiency and applying the best strategies rather than ploughing hour after hour into my work.

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to? What new realisations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

Anything that does not add value to myself or others in a significant way.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

My four step recipe, if one does not work then I move on to the next one down.

1.   Take a break

2.    Exercise

3.    Sleep

4.    Discuss what’s on my mind with my wonderful Mother

If you enjoyed this article and would like to purchase the book, see the link below.

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