A wonderful person asked me a question today.
How do I connect with new people I admire?
Great question! A few simple steps:
1) The technicalities of it are actually easier than we think. With the good ol' internet, asking around, TenThousandCoffees.com, LinkedIn, Contact Pages on websites, asking for an introduction, networking, etc. people are usually way more accessible than we think!
2) The tone of your first contact matters. When you make that initial contact (often an email) you want:
a) To be human, not robotic (that can feel spammy)
b) To be funny/ personable/ charismatic, create a sense of identification. I messaged someone: "Mark, it's Paloma, just your garden-variety Jewish-Canadian Scorpio-Redheaded Twenty-Something Entrepreneur-Artist. You have a beard & I have a Jewfro. We’re not so different."
c) Offer Social Proof/ establish a bit of credibility "It's funny, when I was working with XYZ" "just last week, I was having an awesome conversation with Insert Important Person", "two of my clients asked me about this today..." "I've been interviewing ABC and they've been wonderful..."
d) Be positive; use words like "amazing" "awesome" "exciting", the language we use reflects on us as people
e) Keep it short and sweet. Too much rambling seems nervous/ unconfident
f) DBD: Don't be desperate. Don't pander too much. A kind compliment is perfect. But don't kiss their feet. You're not saying they are the queen of the world. They're a human you admire. Remember, everyone is a human. No one's above or below you. So treat everyone with assertiveness and kindness, as you would an equal.
3) Walk in confident. Don't be scared. Be nice. Show up. Ask good questions (I always bring a notebook and think about what I'd like to learn in advance, but best to improvise and keep it natural). This is like a first date. Your first first date is super scary. Your 20th first date is not scary. And you actually order a hamburger and fries cuz who gives a crap. Feel the fear and do it anyway. A new connection can bring remarkable resources, opportunities, friendship, mentorship, mutually beneficial wins, wisdom, connection. Make an investment of discomfort, awkwardness, fear, nervousness. It's the best investment you can make.
4) Tell your story too! Let them get to know you. Show your personality. Everyone's happy to make a new friend. It doesn't matter if they are older, more professional or more experienced. You have a TON to give. Remember that. Just sharing your story, your struggle, your personality, your questions, your humanity is a gift to another person. Plus it's lonely at the top. Even CEOs and Profs and the Instagram star you admire wants friends, wants to be liked, wants to laugh, wants to connect.
5) Find ways that you can help them. Everyone can use help. Refer people to them. Support their projects.
6) Thank them. Exchange information. Follow up with them. Periodically share with them. Befriend them. Always put goodness into the relationship. And the relationship will be good.
You can do it! Sounds scary but it's awesome!
P.S. I know what you're thinking! "But, wait, Paloma what can I give MY MENTOR? They're so accomplished and I'm just a bump on a log. I can't possibly be helpful to them right?"
I'll tell you a story. I was in New York with my entrepreneur friend Marielle the other day and a homeless man asked me if I'd buy him a sandwich. 9 dollars and 10 cents of mine later he had a meatball sub (with EXTRA meatballs). Why? Because it feels good to give. And it feels EXTRA good to give when the person you're giving to feels super grateful and benefits as a result and points to YOU as the reason they succeeded. So your mentors will be people for whom GIVING feels GOOD and to whom you will be deeply grateful. You will make them feel good about themselves and smart and helpful (because money is lovely but it is not deeply satisfying; helping another person is deeply satisfying).
ALSOO, you have lived in a different body, seen the world with different eyes, experienced different joys and disappointments so you are an interesting human being. To be able to share a good story is a great offering. People want to interact with confident and interesting people because people want to be entertained, growing and inspired. You ARE or CAN BE that person for your mentor. I've had mentors who leave conversations deeply inspired by me, my life, my work, my experiences, etc. DON'T undervalue your experiences. Share them proudly and don't undercut yourself.
Also re: what to offer mentors, it doesn't matter how fancy this person is, if they are smart they are trying to build their Influence Empire (not just money empire). So you're going to find out what they badly want and need most (question asking, become friends with them, be kind and generous and curious) and then you're going to help them, point them to resources, connect them to people, tell them about things they hadn't considered before. YOU CAN DO THAT. Remember this. There's one thing you can give a person that they can't give themselves: Ready? TESTIMONIALS & REFERRALS. That shit's crack for an expert like myself or another potential mentor. You keep helping others know we exist and we're great and we'll keep helping you achieve your goals. Referrals are worth gold. You help me build my group and I'll help you with what you want. What I say about myself isn't as powerful about what you're spreading about me "out there". And once you've given positive reviews, TELL THE person you've done it. They will be SUPER grateful. Video is better than writing but everything counts. Telling your friends and posting on your Fb are amazing. Actually increasing #s of followers is amazing. If you're on a crusade for them and their success, you bet your butt your mentor will do everything to keep feeding this win-win monster :) Does that make sense?