Learning, Quotes

14 lessons from my mentors that you should know

Portrait of The Great Teacher Marpa. Jegornagel.com

“Now listen carefully, child. I will teach you”.
Portrait of The Great Teacher Marpa, 17th century, Tibet

The best teacher is not the one who knows most but the one who is most capable of reducing knowledge to that simple compound of the obvious and wonderful.
― H.L. Mencken

For about 10 last years I had different mentors. I talked to some just several times, with others I had long conversations regularly. Anyway, I think that having a mentor is like having a parent who cares for you not because of unconditional love, but because of inner conviction that he wants to help you.

Parents teach children what to do and how to think. Mentors are not teachers, they are awakeners, as Robert Frost said. Usually, I write a diary after every session with mentors, so I won’t forget lessons they share and can work on them later. In this post I want to share some best notes from my mentors with context, so you could apply them to your life. Here we go:

Life lessons from my mentors that will help you

  1. Adults don’t need to ask for permission. If you believe in something, do it. If you want something, do it. You don’t need approval. You don’t need permission. If it doesn’t work out, it’s always better to ask for forgiveness.
  2. Life is not fair. You won’t get that promotion. That girl would choose another boy. Your business will fail. No one will care about you. These things happen. Don’t wish things were different. Just be better next time.
  3. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. When you thin meet an asshole, think that he might be going through the situation you’ll once fall into. We’re on the one planet, we’re all human, and we’re all the same despite the fact that we want to be different. Be compassionate.
  4. Know your environment, competition, industry, friends, enemies. If you want to truly grow in your life, you have to understand your surroundings. Whatever you think is the truth is a lie, until you research, experiment, test, and find out what who is really a king of the mount.
  5. Hard things are always hard. Difficult conversations, firing people, saying you’re sorry, going to funerals… Anyway, your life wouldn’t be that fulfilled without these hard things.
  6. Have a side-business. You should make money independently. Don’t trust your employer your full income. Explore variants, make something valuable, hustle, sell it. You are in business.
  7. The best things in life happen to you when you’re alone. Accept yourself if you’re an introvert. Don’t make yourself look like an extrovert.
  8. I don’t give a shit. Watch carefully what others want you to do. People want to you read that book, partner in that business, give them money, attend that conference, make you feel sorry. Somehow, happy people don’t care about shit that doesn’t matter.
  9. Avoid people who always complain. Their goal is to spoil your life. They don’t want to progress or change themselves. They want to grudge and complain.
  10. Let people go. Over the course of your life, you’ll lose friends, colleagues, team members, employees, bosses, partners. People move on. You’d better know when it’s time for you to move on. And never hold a grudge.
  11. You don’t need to know where you’re going. It’s great when you do, but if you don’t there’s nothing wrong with you. Many successful people didn’t know what to do in their twenties-thirties-fourties but worked hard on anything they had. Sometime you’ll find your calling.
  12. Commit yourself to the process, not the project. Don’t be afraid to do something badly, everyone does. Don’t work on the project, as if it fails you’ll get disappointed. Enjoy the flow, learn as much as you can, find your circle.
  13. Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Don’t forget to credit if you use someone’s work.
  14. The crowd is always wrong. The crowd wants bread and circuses; it wants lions and gladiators; it wants The Beverly Hillbillies and Justin Bieber. You can do better than the crowd. You can seek your own approval.

Know your why

We all face a hard choice.

You know that: college, faculty, car, city, company, and even a spouse. It’s hard to make a right decision.

I was advised to invest time not in looking for an answer to what to choose but to spend time learning my WHY’s.

What is a purpose (Who am I meant to be? What school to choose?) and a meaning is Why (What am I here to do? Why I love this?)

If you understand the WHY of anything, the WHAT’s of that will make much more sense, have more relevance, have more substance, and provide the motivation and resilience (grit) to be successful.

To explain the difference watch this 3-minute video by Michael Jr:

So the simple advice that changed my life is this:

Know you why.

A good apology

We all are on a mission.

This mission is to take make our lives better.

Nobody can make one’s life better without taking 100% personal responsibility for their life.

Let’s start with apologies.

Here’s an interesting article I just read about apologies: Making an Effective Apology from the Berkley. They advise these steps:

  1. Acknowledge the offense
  2. Provide an explanation
  3. Express remorse
  4. Make amend

Dr. Randy Pausch had an even simpler method for making an apology:

  1. I’m sorry
  2. It was my fault
  3. How do I make it right?

Additionally, you can watch a good TED talk about the power of the apology:

notCouch: what I learn searching for my comfort zone

A sculpture of Adonis, Jegor Nagel

A sculpture of Adonis, 1723–25, Antonio Corradini.

After two weeks of silence and about two months of internal prostration, I set myself to a new project about superhumans. They do the right thing. I’m not one of them.

Superhuman (adj.) —

  1. above or beyond what is human; having a higher nature or greater powers than humans have;
  2. exceeding ordinary human power, achievement, experience, etc.

Superhuman makes what he says. If he wants to write a book, he publishes it in a year and gets an award after award. The next year he writes the second book. He wakes up early in the morning even if he isn’t tied with time. He goes to the gym. He watches movies once a month. He reads 5 books a month.

But here’s me. Flabby, infirm, piss-weak, mere human. I do the right things, but not now. I want to write a book, do sport, read books, and change my job. I put them on the lost list.

notCouch is a series of posts and letters about what I learn searching for my comfort zone.

The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease, and secure.

― Roy T. Bennett

It’s fun, but I don’t feel any of this. I’m not safe, ease, and secure. I’m on fire most of the time. So I wonder, how do I get to that zone of comfort? Is it a particular place or just a state of mind?

notCouch is going to become my way of learning about myself, what makes me comfortable, what makes me weak.

Experiment on air

I’m Jegor. Outside I am a digital marketing director, productivity geek and an example for imitation, and inside I am an amorphous sponge without the willpower, which falls into a depression after every little fail.

I know what it means to get up from the couch and go to work to play the role of a cheerful and smart man, and then I come back home and can’t persuade myself to do at least anything.

I gave up on so many things and projects. notCouch can become one of them. Perhaps the experiment will fail, but in front of the audience, on air. I invite you to become a spectator.

What’s on the list

This is a live experiment: I write a letter and send it to you, then I’ll post it on the blog. I do not have letters written in advance, the finale is unknown, as in life.

I have some “Must Write” topics, but I don’t know what’s going to be the first and the last. What to say if I don’t know how many letters I am going to write. I’ll see how it goes.

What next

I do not guarantee that you will read my letters and start going to the gym, eating broccoli, learning Mandarin and going to bed before twelve. I would like to promise this, but I can’t do this. But I will try to make sure that you understand how to achieve all this.

What you won’t see

I won’t write any non-working shitty advice. There will be no self-coaching or personal growth things. I won’t ask you to write your life goals and read inspirational quotes from highly effective people. I tried to smoke this, it did not help.

Put your email in the form below to get emails when they are ready.


  1. Signing up for email newsletter is free.
  2. Any information in the letters shared as is without any warranty.
  3. I am not affiliated with any person or company mentioned in letters.

Never stop sharing

The secret of an excellent network of contacts is in generosity.

You must be willing to freely share your own experiences and knowledge. At the beginning of a career, when you have a small experience, it’s not easy. But still share what you can: time, ideas, interesting links. This will give your contacts an understanding: you will always come to the rescue, if necessary.

Do not worship the technical skills. You shouldn’t know everything about your business. The best way to promote your career from the very beginning is to work on networking as part of your usual work even before you get it.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead – Laszlo Bock


A groundbreaking inquiry into the philosophy of work and a blueprint for attracting the most spectacular talent to your business and ensuring the best and brightest succeed. This book influenced and changed the way I look at recruiting, training, and managing people. Mostly every chapter of the book lead to the deep search and implementation process into my life.

Key Takeaway #1

“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”: If you give people freedom, they will amaze you.
Group’s culture can be studied in three ways: by looking at its “artifacts,” such as physical space and behaviors; by surveying the beliefs and values espoused by group members; or by digging deeper into the underlying assumptions behind those values.

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You can’t have two mother languages

There can be no two mother languages, one is always a dominant. We do not speak the language, but the language speaks through us and we can’t speak without a language. World for a person is a native language, which is the only possible model of reality.

Mother language is the only language you can feel. Mother tongue is a symbolic environment, a mediator and harmonizer between the energies of the cognitive and the one who discovers the world.

— Batsewicz F. Spiritual synergy of native language

Banning Small Talk

Wounded Amazon is thinking about small talks. 1st–2nd century A.D. Roman

On the Wired I found the cool idea for the party. Kristen Berman and Dan Ariely fed up with small talks and came up with the idea: at the party, you can not talk about any garbage, just about important. Thus, any small talk is banned. Though, you can talk on “What are you afraid of?”, “What do you think about religion?”, “Do we live in a simulation?”, etc.

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How many projects do you have?

Every task with more than one action step is a project — a core philosophy of Getting Things Done method. This simply means, that even seemingly the simplest outcomes — like “buy ticket to the movie” or “prepare a report” — require numerous steps. Instead of tracking these steps in our heads, we should track them in an external tool.

Here come the Project List Mindsweep. Most people couldn’t give you a full inventory of their projects if their life depended on it. Making a list of all these projects, helps to focus on only the next action, not on the project in general and its outcome.

To start with GTD Project List Mindsweep, I recommend following the Getting Started with GTD (Getting Things Done) Templates  by Tiago Forte on Evernote blog.

Most people find that sticking to this definition produces a list of around 30–100 projects. Follow the steps in the guide to find out what project you carry in your brain.