How to connect with top mentors without inviting them to coffee. - Jon Acuff
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How to connect with top mentors without inviting them to coffee.

(I don’t do many guest posts these days, but for years, I’ve loved getting to know the author of this one. I shared the stage with Lewis Howes at World Domination Summit and asked him to write about this topic because I’ve watched him do an amazing job of connecting with mentors. He’s also built a massive podcast with 9 million downloads in part because he’s so great at connecting with people. For more great stuff from Lewis, check out his book “The School of Greatness.”)

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How to connect with top mentors without inviting them to coffee. By Lewis Howes

My most valuable business asset, aside from my ability to hustle, is my network. I can pick up the phone and call any number of friends and powerful experts in a wide range of topics asking for advice and I know it will be exactly what I need to get results.

This is priceless.

But about 8 years ago I couldn’t pick up the phone and call one person who I trusted for business advice. I knew football coaches, previous teammates and ex-girlfriends and that was about it. So, if you don’t feel like you have much of a network currently, don’t worry. There’s hope.

Coincidentally, it was my girlfriend at the time who introduced me to one of my first business mentors, when I was a washed up football player recovering from surgery, and clueless about what to do with my career. She knew an inventor who had just moved back to Columbus, Ohio, where I was living at the time, and she arranged a meeting between us.

I showed up in jeans and a ripped off tee shirt with an attitude like I had it all figured out. Thankfully, I was able to tell pretty quickly that this inventor, Chris Hawker, was really smart and a good guy. I could see I might have a chance to learn something from him if I played my cards right. So I started asking him a lot of questions, really listened to the answers, and at the end of our conversation, I asked him if I could work for him.

He said no. But I said I’d follow up anyway.

I followed up with him every week for months until he finally said I could come work for free around his office (and my desk was a closet in his kitchen). I worked for him for a number of months, eventually making $500 a month, sitting in that closet making phone calls and going to trade shows with him. But in exchange, I got to go on a walk with him once a day where I could ask him any question I wanted.

This experience was priceless.

Chris is still my good friend, mentor, and business partner to this day. He taught me so much more than how to run a business or come up with a good product idea. He taught me that to develop a powerful, mutually supportive relationship with a mentor, you have to be willing to give way more than you ask.

Lewis-book-mockup2In fact, don’t ask for anything.

Just offer to be of meaningful service, in any capacity that will help the mentor in achieving what is important to them. (This could be as simple as showing them how to set up a Twitter cover image that doesn’t look terrible.)

Offer to work for free.

Say yes to anything.

Hustle hard.

Show them you are grateful and willing to learn.

Keep your word.

Skip coffee meetings and go straight to offering a potential mentor whatever you can that will aid them in their own business. Be patient and before you know it, you’ll have a much bigger network. It’s worth the work, I promise.

7 Comments
  • Brandon
    Posted at 08:12h, 29 October Reply

    I have seen a number of entrepreneurs talk about the follow a mentor strategy and to me all I ever see is the same thing, work for free and follow someone until they give you advice or help. Now I’m not knocking anyone who has made themselves from that approach but it seems to me that you have to either have enough money to work for free or come from enough privilege that someone will catch you if you fall while working for free. It just never seems like practical advice for people struggling paycheck to paycheck. I honestly wouldn’t mind having a mentor or putting in the free work to gain knowledge and experience, but how do you do that when you work (im including commute time) 6-5?

    • Liz
      Posted at 14:28h, 29 October Reply

      That’s not a bad question. Right now, I’m “in between”. I have a weekend job, but I’m also working to become a graphic designer. I have NO IDEA where to work or where to find a mentor, but I’m following all the leads I can to see where to go.

      Right now, the closest I have to a mentor is my graphic design teacher from college. I’ll pop by every now and then to catch up and ask questions. I don’t think all business mentors need to be the kind you work for (though I’m sure that helps), but rather someone you feel you can learn from who’s willing to give you their time. In the post, it said he followed up with him once a week for several months. That’s not a bad way to start!

  • Amber
    Posted at 09:21h, 29 October Reply

    Busy people are…busy. We aren’t being personally rejected when they don’t have time. We are not being creative in the way we are choosing to connect.

    This we some great advice. Humility is so key to success but completely contradictory to our way of thinking about how business works. A step down or a step out might just be your step up. Thank for the good words.

  • Huong
    Posted at 11:43h, 29 October Reply

    I love that Lewis did a guest post for you, Jon! He’s one of my favorite authors (I can now say that! :P) aside from you of course. I learned in recent years that your network is your net worth. Building relationships is definitely something I’ve been teaching myself because all I want are positive, happy and big dreamers in my life and to be in that environment with amazing people every chance I can get.

    It’s difficult to connect with the “big dogs” especially for people like me who have day jobs like the 9-5 (for now), but for those asking how to do this, I personally make every attempt to follow people who I’d want in my life via social media. I follow these people on Instagram, like their Facebook pages, read their blog posts, watch and share their videos, podcasts, vlogs and articles with my team, family and friends and buy the books they write and read them to get a chance to know their story, hardships, hustle and especially them as a person. I also do it because I know that someone will benefit from their work and inspire them to get moving.

    I’ve done this with entrepreneurs for the last couple of years and it makes meeting in person for the first time at an event is much less awkward, haha! Networking with your heart also makes YOU more approachable not only as a business person, but as a friend. Even though I haven’t met him (yet), I know Lewis knows me by now because I’m “being seen” on all his platforms, but I’m also genuinely interested in who he is and what he’s doing. He does the same by responding to his fans and followers like you do, Jon. That’s the secret! People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!

  • Liz
    Posted at 14:31h, 29 October Reply

    This is something I really need to take to heart. It can be a struggle to find the right person sometimes, and the time to meet with them gets more complex the older and busier and more family-entangled we become.

    If I was 25, single, and completely on my own, I think it would be much, much easier for me to throw in my lot with someone in this way. But doing that as a 37-year-old with job and family obligations means getting advice when and where I can. lol And I’m TERRIBLE at networking, but this gives me a lot of hope!

  • Whitney Wagner
    Posted at 12:21h, 10 November Reply

    Great thoughts! This is something I definitely need to do.

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