Who you are on Tuesday in one room is not the same as who you are on Wednesday in a different room. Around some people, you feel on top of the world. Around others, you can't think straight. You don't have an absolute value and unchanging identity. Like pieces on a chessboard, your value and capability are relative, not fixed and unchanging. The relationship between things (the context) is the reality, not the things themselves.
With some people, you could do brilliant and world-changing work. Among other people, you may be uninspired and dull, never fulfilling your deepest dreams (and, worse yet, never realizing what is missing in your life). Relating these ideas to the game of chess, former chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin explains in his book The Art of Learning (emphasis mine):
While the intermediate player will learn how a Bishop's strength in the middle game depends on the central Pawn structure, a slightly more advanced player will just flash his or her mind across the board and take in the Bishop and the critical structural components. The structure and the Bishop are one. Neither has any intrinsic value outside its relation to the other. They are chunked together in the mind. This new integration of knowledge has a peculiar effect, because I began to realize that the initial maxims of each piece's value are far from ironclad. The pieces gradually lose absolute identity. I learn that Rooks and Bishops work more effectively together than Rooks and Knights. But Queens and Knights tend to have an advantage over Queens and Bishops. Each piece's power is purely relational, depending upon such variables as Pawn structure and surrounding forces. So now, when you see a Knight, you see its potential in the context of the Bishop a few squares away.
What Waitzkin described in terms of chess, I've seen and experienced myself, but to a heightened degree. Because not only is a person's value relative to their context, but unlike chess pieces, which can't change form, a person has the potential to change in powerful ways. Someone could go from a Pawn, to a Bishop, to a King, to something completely different.
During my undergraduate education, I worked as a research assistant to several professors. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I worked hard, I knew the material, and I was sure that a bright future in academia lay ahead of me. After spending countless hours over two years doing research, I applied to graduate school...and was roundly rejected by all the schools I wanted to attend. Apparently, I wasn't as competitive as I was led to believe.
A few months after this humbling rejection, I met a young professor--Dr. Nate Lambert--from another department. Immediately, I saw something different about him. All of his research assistants were working on actual manuscripts. They weren't doing the common undergraduate labor but were given far greater responsibility and professional training. I could see that working in Nate's research lab would provide far different possibilities than the labs I had worked in before.
My first day working with Nate, he gave me one of his old and unfinished research manuscripts to work on. "Get this baby polished up and we'll submit it for publication," he told me. I had never worked on a paper so close to publication, but given my new situation, my motivation was sky-high.
I worked my brains out on that paper over the next week, and when I thought it was as polished as it could be, I sent it back to him. He liked what he saw and submitted it to a prominent journal where it was eventually accepted for publication. "Wow," I thought to myself. "I just spent over two years with several professors and got nowhere near submitting anything for publication. Now, a week after meeting this guy, I already have a paper submitted."
I realized this was an environment that I wanted to be a part of--a productive, challenging, fruitful partnership. I was being pushed to excel in ways I hadn't in my other research relationships. I loved seeing my progress toward my goals. But even more, I loved seeing my skills, capabilities, and confidence grow while working with Nate.
How To Get Good Mentorships
Very rarely can you get high quality mentorships for free. Maybe while you're an undergrad in college. But in the real world, usually, you'll have to pay. As Joe Polish, a mentor of mine often says, "If you don't pay, you usually don't pay attention.
Usually, you'll have to "pay to play." But that doesn't mean the relationship is transactional. It's just what opens the door. Once you've opened that door, you must walk inside.
But before we discuss HOW to walk inside, it's important to consider just how important the act of INVESTING money into relationships and into yourself is.
There are two very important things that happen when you INVEST in yourself or a relationship.
- You upgrade your subconscious belief system about what you can have in your life. To quote Dr. David Hawkins, "The unconscious will only allow you to have what you believe you deserve." When you invest in yourself, you upgrade your sense of what you believe you deserve and can have.
- You increase your commitment to your goals and to the relationship. In business psychology and behavioral economics, there is a concept called "escalation of commitment." What it means is that, once a person becomes highly invested in something, they simultaneously become highly committed. In many ways, escalation of commitment comes from "sunk cost," but it doesn't have to be a negative thing. Important in all of this is the fact that when you invest in something, you begin to wrap your identity around it. That's where the commitment comes from. It's emotional. It's part of who you are.
So, when you "pay to play," you're actually doing yourself a huge favor. You're upgrading your subconscious belief system, altering your identity to match your goals, and increasing your commitment to your goals and the key relationships that will help you get there.
Making the Most of Mentorships
It's not enough to just pay someone. Money is only so valuable. And money isn't how you create deep and lasting connections.
When you invest in a mentorshp, you need to take your focus off the money. Instead, you need to focus on your mentor and their goals. You need to become deeply committed to helping them move the needle forward in their own life.
That's how you get the most out of a mentorship (or any other investment such as a mastermind group).
When you invest in a relationship, then look for all the ways you can contribute to that relationship, magic happens. If your mentor is great, then you shouldn't be mad to pay them. You should be happy to even be able to get access. However, access isn't what you should be looking for.
Transformation and collaboration are. According to Harvard Psychologist, Robert Kegan, the highest level of conscious evolution is called, "the transforming-self," and it can only happen when two people come together-- both givers-- and seek 10X or 100X growth as the product of their partnership. This is what Strategic Coach founder, Dan Sullivan, explains happens when two people going 10X in their "unique ability" combine forces to go 100X. It's what Stephen Covey calls synergy.
Rare Skills and Abilities
In the book, SO GOOD THEY CAN'T IGNORE YOU, Cal Newport explains that instead of pursuing your "passion," it's better to develop rare skills and abilities. This is what "craftsmen" do.
When you get good at something, you develop confidence. When you develop confidence and skill, you become passionate about that thing.
When it comes to mentorships, you want to BRING rare skills and abilities to the table. You want to do whatever you can to make your mentor's life better. As Zig Ziglar famously said, "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want."
Joe Polish, my key mentor, has a similar phase to Zig: Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.
John Wooden, the famed basketball coach who won 10 national championships had a similar phrase: You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving.
Meditations On A Recent Mentorship
As stated previously, I've gone quite deep in a current and recent mentorship with Joe Polish, who also happens to be the founder of Genius Network and Genius Recovery.
Importantly, Joe and I have a huge overlap in interests. We're both fiercely passionate about and committed to entrepreneurship, personal growth, and changing the global conversation around addiction.
Our mentorship and friendship began with me investing $25,000 to join Genius Network, considered by many to be one of the best entrepreneurial masterminds in the world.
At my first few meetings, I heard Joe talk a lot about the importance of being a "giver," and about how to create true "connections." In life and business, your "net-worth" is a reflection of your "network." Even still, many people have lots of business "connections" that aren't really CONNECTIONS.
For Joe, connection is everything. It's how you grow as a person. It's also the only way to overcome an addiction. You can't do it alone. You can't be transactional. You can't be a taker. You can't win through silent battles or manipulation. At least, not in the long-run.
According to Joe, in every social situation you are in, you are either attempting to escape or connect. This matches psychological research that says all human behavior is either "approaching" or "avoiding" something.
Since joining Genius Network, I've tried to add as much value to the group as a whole, and to Joe individually, as I could.
What has happened since has changed my life.
First, when you decide to get mentored by someone, you need to fully embrace what they are teaching. You need to let their teaching transform you. You need to have it change your behaviors and beliefs.
Joe has changed my life. I've learned much more about how to be a giver and how to create genuine and "Genius" connections with his help.
But what has blown me away most is how generous and thoughtful Joe has been to me. He lives what he preaches. He's the prime example of his teachings, as all mentors should be.
I have a book coming out soon, which according to an article on INC., "If you only read one book in 2018, make it this one."
Joe has helped me personally give a copy of my book to Tony Robbins and recently at a dinner with Alice Cooper. By the way, Joe paid $14,000 for that dinner to happen, and kindly invited me to come.
Here's what's crazy. We were getting ready to go to the dinner with Alice and all getting in Joe's car. Then, he jumped out of his car and ran back into his office. He came back with 3 copies of my book (my publisher sent him 80 copies to give to people at a recent event).
He handed me the copies and said, "You need to give this to Alice." I didn't even think about it. A true mentor cares more about their mentee's success than their own. Similarly, a true mentee cares more about their mentor's success than their own. This is how 100X synergy happens. Two givers come together.
My BHAG (big-hairy-audacious-goal) is for my book to hit the NYT bestseller list. When Joe found out that was my goal, he immediately contacted my publisher and requested 5,500 copies, which cost him $100,000.
I was humbled.
Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, has developed a concept he calls, "unique ability." When a person is operating in their unique ability, they are fully engaged in what they are doing. There is no internal or external resistance. In order to set your life up to live in your unique ability, you need to automate, delegate, and outsource everything you shouldn't be doing, or everything other people could do better than you. You need to free up your time to do what only you can do best.
Joe's unique ability to 1) to be a true friend, and 2) to create incredible opportunities for himself and others through win-win synergies. These capabilities allow for what Joe calls E.L.F. business -- which is Easy, Lucrative, and Fun.
If you want to succeed big in life, you can't do it through willpower. You must do it through connection.
The best connections usually occur when you pay someone who deeply aligns with your core philosophies and goals in life. Once you enter the mentorship/relationship, you need to do all you can to help your mentor achieve their goals. You can't be transactional, you must be transformational.
The only way to true transformational relationships is to be a giver, and to give of the rare skills and abilities you've developed through years of deliberate practice. You don't want just access. You want to contribute big so you can go 100X toward a cause you both care deeply about.
When you engage in mentorships this way, and when your mentor is also a giver, you'll be blown away by how much they'll do to help you achieve your goals.
It's very humbling to have someone help you in ways you could never help yourself. But that's exactly what connection is all about.
Are you truly connecting?
Are you transactional, or transformational?
Are you a giver or a taker?
Do you care more about your mentors goals than your own?
Do you love?