Big Breaks + Mentoring + Hard Work = Success?
I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success and it got me thinking about interviews that I have conducted, so I decided to explore an idea. I still haven’t gotten further than a third of the book so far, but when you ask most people about Outliers, they’ll mention 10,000 hours to become an expert at a craft. But from what I have read so far, hard work doesn’t equal success, you also need opportunities and talent.
I have taken five of The Invisible Mentor interviews that I have published on the blog, and extracted the responses to big breaks, mentor influence, and steps to success. Today, I’m focusing on five men, yesterday were five women. As you read the responses, what ideas and thoughts come to mind? Are there ways you can create your own opportunities if you haven’t had your big break as yet?
Name: Michael Hewitt-Gleeson
Big Break: One big break was from a famous man in America, Professor George Gallup who started the Gallup Poll and invented market research. He is the fellow who discovered the statistical sample. If you measure a population you can get their point of view and of course that is difficult and expensive to do. If you measure a statistical random sample of 1,200 people, you get the same point of view as if you measured the population. And of course it’s possible to measure a sample and get a small deviation plus or minus. The Gallup Poll has predicted the outcome of every US Presidential Elections since the mid 1930s.
At a time when we needed some help and advice in getting The School of Thinking going, in breaking through the education system, someone of that stature as Professor George Gallup lent his name to it, and he said that what we were doing was possibly one of the greatest things in the world. He in a sense became my mentor, the supervisor for my PhD. He wrote the foreword for one of my books. He was a very nice and encouraging gentleman. He was in his 80s at the time, and I was a much younger man and he extended a hand. I was very gracious with his hospitality and would visit him at his farm up at Princeton. Looking back, this was a huge break and very practical one, and I’m very grateful because it led to a cover story on Readers Digest in 1993. It was an international edition with over 70 million readers which put the school of Thinking on the map. At that time, it was like being on Oprah today.
Mentor Influence: There are people who come along, and sometimes they encourage you, or tell you what you do not want to hear. So one category are people who are wiser, often older and in a different circumstance, who are able to give you good advice, direction or point things out if you are willing to listen. Professor George Gallup and Edward de Bono were great mentors for me. Edward de Bono was my tutor for my PhD, he had one student, me. I am the only one in the world who has a PhD in lateral Thinking, and Edward de Bono and George Gallup were my examiners. They were two extraordinary individuals who spent a lot of time with me, and I have built a whole career around that.
Steps to Success: I make sure that I do something that I enjoy doing. And I do them every day. In other words, from the point of view of virtuosity, it takes a long while, you cannot just pick up a book or video on something and become an expert. Some people think you can, but you can’t. It may take 10 years, and you can do 10 years if you love what you are doing so it’s a combination of loving what you are doing, and doing it every day. Enjoy success as you go and do the 10,000 hours it requires to achieve virtuosity, and then enjoy that kind of success as well.
Name: Steve Kayser
Big Break: Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Steve Kayser: Just one? I have had big breaks all my life. Every day. Every month. Every year.
Tom Nies gave me my latest big break. He asked me to run PR for Cincom Systems North America. When I told him I didn’t know anything about PR he said, “Read this book – you’ll be fine.” The book he gave me was “The Death of Advertising & The Rise of PR,” by Al Ries. I read it. Then called Al Ries. Explained my situation and asked his advice and also asked him to contribute to a fledgling online E-Zine I was developing called Expert Access. He did become a contributor and we went from 5,000 subscribers to 25,000 in about 1 month because of it. Al Ries (and his daughter Laura Riesnow) have done several interviews and articles with me … And, Al Ries was also one of the first guests we had on Expert Access Radio — http://radio.cincom.com.
One of the lessons I took from that — People at the top value great thinking. They pass it on. If you take advantage of their thinking (in this instance Al Ries’ book) it can change everything for you. But you have to teach yourself – learn yourself. No handholding allowed.
It’s the biggest thing I would look for in new employees or partners now. Are they autodidacts? Can they teach themselves new things – continuously?
Mentor Influence: Wow – where to start. See above. Some of those guys were. But I also read 3 to 5 books a week and find great mentoring there.
Steps to Success: Stumbled. Staggered. Fell. Those are kinda the steps.
No failures = no success
To succeed you have to fail at some time. No way around that I think.
Since I’ve literally reinvented myself 5 times during my life and am in the process of doing it again – I can only say what steps seem to be common in all of those endeavors:
A Joie de vivre – a joy for living & loving life, learning, re-learning. I need to throw a quote in here.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Name: John Kremer
Big Break: Probably the thing that had the biggest impact for me is that Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen loved my book and recommended it to everybody. I was successful before but I sold a ton of books based on their recommendation. They took my book 1001 Ways to Market Your Book and basically put it up on a wall and did the things that they wanted to do. The Rule of Five is one of the strategies that they took from my book, which says that you should do at least five things every day to market your book, any book that you still love and want to have sold and that helps you to be successful marketing your book.
Mentor Influence: I haven’t had any real mentors who sat with me that much, but I’ve had many mentors through books. I have been mentored by people who I have read like Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and people like Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen through their books, and also by marketing people like Jay Conrad Levinson.
Steps to Success: The main thing that I did was study and learn and keep observing what other people were doing that was working and follow what I noted when I watched people. I have a lot of people that I learned from and not just the gurus but my customers who tell me what works and doesn’t work for them. Much of what I know about book marketing comes from people sharing with me what works for them, and all I do is essentially pass on that information.
Name: Kevin Popović
Big Break: There is a gentleman named Bob Friday, and he had a company called TGIF Productions that did video and event production. While I was a struggling entrepreneur, and trying to figure out where I was going to fit in this communications business, I had to take a part-time job in retail. Every so often Bob would come in to the store and buy something new for his office, and he’d share a story and I would chime in about what I thought about his story. We started communicating back and forth.
I ended up offering to help him with these projects on the side to gain experience, and after four or five months of this he started paying me to freelance and after six months of that he brought me on in a full-time position as assistant producer. For four years I traveled all over the country learning about video and event production and how to deal with clients.
I saw how he ran his business and I also saw what I did not like about how he ran his business. So I attribute one of my big breaks to Bob Friday, and thank him for the opportunities he provided and the lessons that he taught me. Many of which are things that I knew that I did not want to do. My father taught me a long time ago to learn from my mistakes and I’ve tried to apply that to everybody I’ve worked with. As much as I have learned from them about what to do, I’ve also learned what not to do.
Mentor Influence: I’ve had a couple of mentors. My father has been a good mentor to me as a professor of marketing. My grandmother has been a mentor to me. She sold shoes for 30 years. Michael Bosworth, sales legend and author of Solutions Selling, Customer Centric Selling and Story Leaders has been a mentor to me in the way that I approach sales and how I present myself, or professional opportunities.
Steps to Success: I’ve always tried to keep moving forward, lateral at worst, never backwards.
Name: Andrew Warner
Big Break: There were lots of big breaks, but here is one. I went to downtown New York, not too far from my office to talk to a customer of mine. On my way out of there, I heard this guy say, “I’m sorry guys I have to run, I don’t have the time. I have to go and look at an apartment uptown. I can’t help you guys today, maybe tomorrow.” So I recognized the guy and said, “Mike, I’ve got a car downstairs, my brother and I will give you a ride up to your apartment and you can get there on time.”
So we’re driving up to the apartment and the whole time I’m thinking, “I should be at my desk, I should be working, what am I doing, just kind of hanging out, what’s wrong with me here, I’ve got to be more efficient,” but I’m enjoying the conversation so I continue, and Mike and I are having a great conversation with my brother, and it’s terrific. I pull over and let Mike out in front of his place and he says, “Thank you! By the way I know that you’re trying to build up your business Andrew we have this customer called Life Minders, they have been buying lots of advertising from us, if you email or contact them and mention my name they’ll buy from you. Alright, goodbye!”
He leaves and I’m sitting there stunned, the guy just handed me a customer, one of his best customers he just introduced me to. That would never have happened if I was just sitting at my desk. It would never have happened if I didn’t get to know him, if I didn’t have this conversation. I called up that Life Minders, and they ended up buying from me. The very first cheque to me was for over $300,000. I looked at it with my brother. We had never seen that much money in the business. I don’t think either of us has seen that big a cheque ever in our lives. It turned around our whole business. We were deep in debt at the time. We could barely pay the bills at the time. That cheque turned things around.
The next cheque from them was for I think $1 million, the next one was for $2 million in advertising and it turned around our business. And what I learned from that was to just go out and have conversations with people and get to know them and really learn from them. That kind of information would never have been on a blog, would never just be on the internet somewhere, and would never have been advertised. I had to get to know Mike to get that kind of information.
Mentor Influence: I didn’t have enough of them unfortunately and I wish that I had more along the way. I know that there were times when I couldn’t see that having four or five big clients was dangerous for my business. I had them, I was doing well, I turned away other customers because I couldn’t fit them all in. That was a big mistake, then a few of them went out of business, and if three of them went out of business, 60 percent of my revenue was shot.
If I had a mentor, he would have looked at it and said, “Look Andrew, I know you are doing well but you’d be better off with less money but securing your future by locking in multiple sponsors,” or they would have said, “Andrew, you should diversify away from this business and have other product lines,” and I just didn’t have that. That was a big mistake.
Steps to Success: Showing up every day. Even when I started out as an entrepreneur earlier on, my friends who didn’t have jobs, or happen to have a day off would ask me to go and hang out, and I remember saying, “I’m working, why are you even asking,” and they’d say, “Because you’re not really working, you’re working for yourself, you don’t have a boss. There is no reason for you to show up today, you can show up tomorrow. You can always make up for it the next day. Or do work on the weekends or in the evenings.” And if you start doing that you never really catch up. But if you show up for every single day, and you think about your job as a mission then you do grow every day. And everyone around you starts to respect what you’re doing, as you respect it yourself.
From what you have read today and yesterday, do Big Breaks + Mentoring + Hard Work = Success?
How can you use this information? What do you have to add to the conversation? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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