You have heard over and over again that in order to succeed, you just need to work hard, study hard, learn a lot, etc. But there’s a lot more to it than just that. One very important element which rarely gets mentioned is to surround yourself with people that you admire. Yes, it takes people skills to surround yourself with people that you admire but these are skills which can be learned. Try reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a fantastic book and will get you much further in life if you internalize what’s written in this timeless classic.
The Smartest Person in the Room
It has been said that if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong place. There’s some truth in this. You want to be surrounded by people that are smarter than you. This gives you a chance to learn and grow. Their success rubs off on you. When you see success in practice — in the real world — this affects you in more ways than you can imagine. It will give you an education that just cannot be learned in any book or bought at any ivy league university. You develop ‘street smarts’. You develop valuable relationships. You learn how things get done. You learn the kind of decisions that need to be made. You will learn to live and breathe success. How can you put a price on that? If you supplement this with consistent and diligent study, you will be unstoppable.
There are different ways to surround yourself with the kind of people that I’m talking about depending on your situation. You can try to work in a company like Google which is filled with geniuses. No matter what field you’re in, you’re guaranteed to grow personally and professionally if you work in a place like Google.
If you’re an entrepreneur, then you should think about partnering with someone, if you haven’t already. Someone that’s not only compatible with you on a personal level but a person that’s smart, can execute effectively and preferably has complementary skills to you so that there aren’t too many overlapping responsibilities. This will greatly improve the odds of your business succeeding.
Once your business is growing, you’ll need staff. Surround yourself with A players. One A player is worth several B players to a business in terms of the amount of value they add to your business. Don’t make the mistake of hiring on the minimum possible cost just to get something done, especially for the important roles. Further, if you fill your business with B players, it will repel any A players that you have over time.
Another way to rub with success is to find mentors. This is something that I will go into some detail on since it applies to virtually everyone.
You can have mentors. Everyone should have mentors, whether you’re a careerist, still studying, just thinking about starting up or you’re already an established business.
There is a mentor for every stage of business and life. Look for people that have already accomplished what you want to accomplish. Try to catch up with them on a regular basis (could be weekly or monthly) and bounce different ideas, talk about what you’re doing, what could be done differently. They are fantastic for guiding you in the right direction since they’ve been there before, put a new perspective on things and alert you to potential mistakes or pitfalls.
How to Find Mentors
Start with your personal network and see if there’s anyone that you want to speak to. It could be an old colleague, a friend, one of your university teachers, a family friend, a colleague of your mother. Reach out to them and invite them for coffee or lunch. Show interest, be engaging, take notes and show your appreciation by sending thank you cards, gifts or whatever you feel may be appropriate.
You can also branch out beyond your personal network. For instance, you can ask your friends or family, “Is there someone you know that does X?” Mention that you’re interested in learning more about the industry/profession and would love to chat.
Don’t limit yourself to your extended network. You can also search for people in your area that fits the bill and try to make contact with them.
Use the approach mentioned above and say that you would love to learn more about what they do because this is something that you’re interested in. Offer to buy them coffee to start with rather than lunch as this represents a smaller commitment for them. You’d be surprised how receptive people can be. People are usually willing to help and not many people bother to reach out because they just assume that it wouldn’t work.
How do you find these people in your area? Start by reading your local newspaper.
You will find mentions of people that are successful in your field or industry. You can then look for them on LinkedIn. Most people do have profiles these days on LinkedIn so you can message them with a highly customized message. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete, relevant and filled with information the person you are messaging may want to know. The ones that respond will sometimes look at your profile to learn more about you so don’t leave it blank!
Be sure to do some research so that your message will be laser targeted. The more targeted, the better your chances of a response. It’s obvious when you send a template message.
You can also do a general Google search. For instance, if you want to find people that are successful at X, then just search [X + your location] on Google. Regardless of how you find the people that you want to contact, make sure that you invest in background research, learn as much as you can about them, about the industry, about their competitors, any press mentions, interviews, etc. This might seem daunting at first but you will reap the rewards later.
I have personally used these methods to meet with the CEOs of multibillion dollar companies to interesting interviewees that I hear on Mixergy.
Rui Zhi Dong is a Marketing Consultant and owner of several successful online businesses. You can read his blog for more tips.
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