Last week, we talked in-depth about how important it is to become friends with successful people. And I even told you the extremely detailed, personal story about how I got started in entrepreneurship — and why building a community of people around me played a pivotal role.
I hope you read those two articles, because they are essential components to understanding today’s post in context.
Today, I’m going to teach you how to connect with anybody in the world. I’m going to include specific examples of how I’ve done it in my own life, and show you the exact results I got from just a handful of new friends.
Hopefully, you’ll be amazed. But more than that, I hope you’ll be motivated to IMPLEMENT.
First, let’s clear the air: Yes, technically, this post is about “networking.” But I refuse to call it such.
Well, I think the term is “played out” at best. And at worst, completely repulsive.
Nobody wants to think of themselves as a “networker,” nobody likes to think if themselves as part of someone else’s “network,” and certainly, nobody enjoys going to “networking” mixers.
There’s something predatory about the whole thing.
So from here on out, we’ll frame our conversation in the context of meeting and connecting with interesting people for the simple joy of making new friends and living a better life. We’re not collecting people or trading “contacts” like baseball cards.
These are real people (just like we are) and if you think of everyone as a human, not a potential step in your ego-driven ladder to success, I guarantee you that you’ll actually climb said ladder faster.
It’s counterintuitive, but it works. I promise.
The biggest reason why connecting with people benefits you is simple: It allows you to extend your reach further, which in turn allows your ideas to make a much bigger impact. The end result is that you often get what you want a lot faster with a few key friends to help you out than if it was just you, banging your head against the wall.
Additionally, the more successful people you’re connected to, the more likely you are to be successful yourself (“You’re the average of your five closest friends”). It’s just a good idea to get close to as many winners as possible.
But this is the part where most of us throw up our hands:
Duh. Connect with successful people. But how?
I’m so glad you asked. Let me tell you how I did it:
Step #1: The Internet Cocktail Party (How to Find People With Mutual Interests and Give Them Value)
When I first started this blog, I didn’t know anybody. It was like walking into a cocktail party by myself where everyone was already acquainted, and not knowing a single soul.
In that situation, the only logical thing you can do is start introducing yourself to people in a way that prompts them to respond to you.
You don’t want to be the only one babysitting a drink in the corner, do you?
I didn’t have much to give at the time, but I did have this little website. So I decided to do interviews.
Why interviews? Well, let’s face it: Everyone likes talking about themselves — and anyone who’s been around the internet block a few times knows that having your name in as many places as possible is helpful. It all adds up.
So I just searched on Twitter, Facebook, etc to find people with sizeable audiences that seemed like they had something interesting to say.
I wrote literally DOZENS of emails to different bloggers/entrepreneurs and I didn’t hear back from everybody. Probably because my intro email was grotesquely long (and had misspellings). I’m shuddering looking at these.
Check out this one I wrote to my now good friend, James Clear, almost 2 years ago.
All of that to ask him the simple question, “Can I interview you?”
Looking back on it, the approach was definitely ugly. But it got the job done. And as I’ll remind you over and over again, it’s more important to just F***ing do it than to get it 100% right.
So I sent out quite a few of those beasts until I started getting responses, and then I created a page of interviews — which ended up being the first page of this website.
In one fell swoop I’d created some cool content for my readers (which at that point, was basically just my mom) and I’d made some connections. People began to know who I was. I was no longer a complete stranger at the party.
Important questions at this point:
1.) “What if I don’t have a blog to interview people on?”
Get one, dammit! Ha. Kidding. Although I do think that creating some form of content (blog, video, podcast, etc) is one of the most powerful things you can do with your time, it’s not essential to meeting powerful, interesting people. However, you do need to do something that adds VALUE to the other person’s life.
- Do some research and find out some of their passions or hobbies – then send them related content.
- Are they looking for the solution to a particular problem that you can help them with?
- Do they have a mutual interest, friend or school connection? Mention it, and bring up something that only people on the “inside” would know.
Basically, be interesting and relevant. It’s not as hard as it sounds to find common interests, connections or ways to help someone.
2.) “If the email above is too long, what should I write to the person?”
If I were doing this entire exercise over again, I would keep it super short and distill the information into only the essential points. Most people aren’t jerks – so they’d like to be able to read your stuff. But EVERYONE is busy and overwhelmed. So make it easy on them. Say something like:
My name is Daniel and I do ________ (insert job, blog, etc). I saw your work on _______ and really enjoyed it. I’m just reaching out because __________ (insert common interest, solution to their problem, etc).
Do you have 5 minutes to chat any time in the next 2 weeks? I have some time on __________ (name a few specific days/times)
If you do this 100 times and make 10 new friends, the effort alone will be completely worth it. However, as you practice more and more, you’ll start refining your process and most likely, you’ll get response rates that are much higher. When I was doing this, I got to a point where 9 of 10 people were responding to me.
Something to remember: You have to choose the RIGHT time to reach out to someone. Just because you get your hands on the email address of a New York Times bestselling author doesn’t mean it’s the right time to connect with them.
Do you have anything of value to offer them?
Can you find any common ground?
Are they in the middle of a book launch and probably very busy?
Do your research. I’ll frequently get the contact information of people that I’d like to connect with, but often hold off on getting in touch because it’s not the right time — or because I know when we talk, I won’t have anything particularly interesting to say.
Again, we’re not just collecting people here, we’re making friends. Be a good friend.
Step #2: Ride the Value Wave
I almost hate using the world “value” so many times, but it does a pretty good job of describing what you should be giving to your new friends. “Value” can mean many things — from a physical gift, to an important connection, to simply a warm feeling. There’s always something to contribute.
That being said, now that you’ve started that friendship, it’s time to give, give, give.
Really start digging deep and think about how you can be of service to people. But the key is to think of the relationship as a “long game.” I want you to completely forget about what the other person can do for you. At least for now. For the time being, it’s all about them.
Many people, myself included, make the mistake of thinking that as soon as you’ve made a connection with someone and offered a sliver of value, you can immediately extract value from them by asking for a favor, connection, etc.
In fact, think of this whole value process as depositing money into a savings account. All the things you do for the other person is the principal. That’s not to be touched. You can only start “withdrawing” value from the relationship once you’ve contributed enough to generate some interest.
Trust me, I learned this the hard way – often bumping my head and wondering why – as I asked important people I’d JUST met to immediately do something for me that was equal or greater value to what I’d just done for them.
For instance, after this high-powered blogger graciously answered some of my questions for an interview, I asked him to review my product — which takes much more time, a better relationship with me, and a willingness to risk his own credibility:
He was nice about it, but the point is, I hadn’t given him enough value to warrant an ask like that.
So what DOES constitute “enough” value?
I’ll give you some examples from my own life — but keep in mind, I’m in the blog space. My goal is to grow my audience and reach more people. So most of my approaches come with that in mind.
DON’T USE THAT AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO START MAKING YOUR OWN CONNECTIONS.
The concept of being useful to people is universal, so take my exact examples and learn from them, but don’t try to copy them exactly. They are concepts. Be creative. Think, dammit. Figure out what you can do to become more valuable to people that you want to get in front of.
Under30CEO and Rich20Something: A Match Made In Blog Heaven
When I first jumped on the scene, I saw immediately that Under30CEO was a big voice in the young aspiring entrepreneur market.
They seemed to have a massive following and I knew that getting aligned with them would mean good things for me and my brand (in fact, many of you probably found me through one of my many posts on their site).
The first thing I did was start contributing SUPER engaging, valuable posts to their site, and becoming part of the community by following up with all the comments. For instance:
- An Open Letter To Frustrated 20-Somethings (147 comments)
- My Hacking Elance Guide (231 comments)
- An Open Letter To Chronic Worriers (55 comments)
Writing articles like these, sharing them with the community, then responding to all the comments really solidified me as a “top contributor” and someone of immense value. I really took this seriously. You can see my comments are third highest in the history of the site, behind the two founders.
And this wasn’t some underhanded tactic to get something I wanted out of them — I just genuinely wanted to help out. I even went so far as to help them on their brand, free of charge.
I got creative and I really wracked my brain thinking of ways that I could help improve Under30CEO — then I sent Matt and Jared a SUPER-DETAILED 11 PAGE report, complete with screenshots.
Very few people have seen this:
Still, I asked for nothing.
These were my friends, and I wanted their business (which was already doing great) to do better. I contributed in any way I could — including sending thousands of dollars their way by getting my friends to go on their awesome Under30Experiences trips (if you haven’t been on one…dude.)
99% of people NEVER think to take this much care in their relationships. And they lack the patience to appreciate the LONG GAME. This process has taken over 2 years, and it’s ongoing.
But after years of helping each other out, we’re can truly count on each other and it’s not an imposition for me to ask something of them — or them of me.
Now, imagine if you take the same approach with 10 (or 20…or 100) powerful people. What types of connections could you form?
I’ve built relationships with dozens of people like this.
Now, I’ll show you how powerful just ONE “thread” of your personal network can be. Let’s continue with the Under30CEO example.
Step #3: Reap The Rewards of Real Friendships
Now that I’d become friends with Under30, lots of fun, unexpected thing happened.
The first and most obvious thing was that I ended up on an amazing trip in Nicaragua.
I ordered 4 tacos, they gave me 4 plates of tacos. Jackasses.
But more importantly, now that I’d demonstrated my value, I officially became part of the team — and I took some responsibility in helping to shape the brand and direction of Under30CEO/Under30Experiences.
I used this new ability to approach people, with the support of Under30CEO, and ask if they were interested in doing a guest post on the site. Because I was now affiliated with a big site (Under30 gets over 500,000 readers per month!) I was able to really get the attention of some important, successful people.
In the diagram below, you can see how I worked my way through just ONE thread of my new network, making friends all along the way.
The first person I introduced myself to was Jordan Harbinger, host and co-founder of the massively popular, #1 ranked Art of Charm podcast (over 400,000 downloads per month!). We had lunch when I moved to LA, and I asked him if he wanted to run a guest post on Under30.
But we also became friends. And friends connect other friends. So I simply said — “Hey man, this was great. Who else do you know in the LA area that’s cool like us, and would be worth meeting?”
PRO TIP: Simply asking your new friends, “Who else should I know” is an open invitation for them to intro you to people, and if your interaction went well, they usually will. Remember, you still have to give everyone massive value (as outlined above).
So Jordan introduced me to my now great friend, Gabriel Mizrahi. We chatted a bit via email, then went to coffee and had a great time. There was nothing transactional about it — we just shot the shit and had FUN! Neither of us asked for anything from each other.
Gabe is a prolific writer, world traveler (see his crazy escapades at The North Korea Blog) and just happened to be in negotiations to host a new streaming TV show…but I didn’t know that at the time we first met.
Months rolled by and we kept in touch. Then, I had an opportunity. I wanted to start interviewing celebrities and high-level entrepreneurs. But I had nowhere to shoot the videos.
I asked around some of my friends (look at how many connections I have just from that ONE interaction with Matt and Jared) and Gabe revealed that he was actually about to take a position as an anchor at a Television startup called The Lip TV. He introduced me to the CEO of The Lip, Michael Lustig.
Michael was happy to hear about my projects, and ended up letting me use his studio to shoot some test footage — which allowed me to bring in some AMAZING guests — including the star of ABC’s Shark Tank, mega-millionaire Lori Greiner.
One day, Lori may introduce me to somebody.
The cycle keeps going and going — but at every level, there is care and nurture of the relationship.
Does this take a lot of energy? YES.
But the rewards are quite literally PRICELESS. From just the single strand I’ve shown you (starting with Under30CEO), I’ve generated THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars from mutually beneficial business partnerships, gone on trips all over the world and met people that I’d never have access to under different circumstances.
I’d say it was worth the effort.
PAY ATTENTION HERE: It’s not about connecting with SPECIFIC people. You can connect with any of the people I’ve named above and your results may not be the same as mine. It’s about the PROCESS of identifying people that you want to meet, becoming great friends with them, and seeing where things go.
Now imagine doing this for decades.
You could go anywhere you want, have access to almost anything you desire and know that in an instant, you’d have the resources to solve your toughest problems. Your friends become your biggest assets.
Now you have my framework for building a powerful community of friends to support you.
But I’m sure there are a lot of questions. I know it seems complicated at first!
Let me know:
- AFTER reading, what questions do you still have about meeting and befriending important people?
- What’s one thing you can do TODAY to start this process in your own life?
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