Finding Fresh Brains

A follow up to the last post…

Where do you find people to model?

I think the best place to do this is through professional trade associations. Volunteering in such organizations is often a good way to develop inroads to meet some of the most successful members.

Industry conferences are also excellent. I find smaller conferences (around 2000 people or less) to be the best. If the conference is overly huge, it’s often too hard to find the right people, and they’re usually swamped anyway. But at the smaller conferences, it’s easy — you’ll often find industry celebrities just hanging around, happy to talk to anyone that has the guts to do so.

How do you identify people you want to model?

Find people who are already getting the results you want. Often you can get a good picture of someone’s results just by reputation. Is there any doubt that Will Wright, creator of Sim City and The Sims, is a talented game designer? Or that John Carmack is a skilled programmer?

Now you might have to settle for lesser mortals in your quest for people to model, and yes there’s some risk of misinterpreting someone’s true results, so reduce the risk by modeling multiple people. Of course, some results are visibly obvious, such as a bodybuilder’s body, a writer’s writing, or a speaker’s speeches.

When all else fails, look for a smile. I like to learn from people who seem genuinely happy.

If you can’t get a clear picture of a person’s true results though, don’t model them in the areas that you can’t perceive clearly. Modeling isn’t a substitute for good judgment — it’s merely an aid.

How do you meet people in person that don’t already know you?

This may sound obvious, but just go right up and introduce yourself. This is a learnable skill, so if you feel shy about it, it takes a bit of practice. You might benefit from reading a few networking books like Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. Two months ago, I attended a lecture by Susan Roane, who refers to herself as The Mingling Maven. She had everyone in the room make up a 7-second personal introduction and then go around the room meeting people.

So it helps to build up some basic people skills, but mostly it just takes guts. A few years ago my wife and I attended a local outdoor vegetarian festival. While we were waiting for the speakers to get started, we saw Alicia Silverstone sitting on the grass in the shade. She’s a fellow vegan, so we weren’t surprised to see her there. I encouraged my wife, who runs VegFamily Magazine, to introduce herself and see if she could setup an interview. She did so and chatted with Alicia for a while, and Alicia agreed to a future phone interview. A little later we saw Ed Begley, Jr. standing by a tree. We chatted with him for a bit, and my wife convinced him to agree to an interview too. Alicia ultimately flaked on the interview, but Ed came through.

How do you build rapport with people you’ve just met?

There are many learnable rapport building skills. One of the best is matching and mirroring. This takes a bit of practice, but it’s extremely effective. Do a Google search on “matching and mirroring” or “NLP rapport building,” and you’re sure to find tutorials on how to do it. You’ll also find it explained in virtually any book on NLP.

Another simple way to build rapport that takes no practice at all is to ask the question, “So how did you first get started in X?” — How did you first get started as an actor? How did you first get started in public speaking? How did you first get started in business? 95% of the time you’ll get a very positive reaction just by asking this question, and the other person will invariably have an interesting story to relate. I use this one all the time when meeting new people. And I get to hear some great stories. I know how dozens of people started up their software/shareware businesses, for example.

It’s important to use rapport building skills sincerely and respectively. They can be very powerful, and if you’re insincere and manipulative in how you apply them, they’re likely to backfire. Meet people and learn from them because you enjoy it, not because you’re forcing yourself to do it out of a desperate lust for the raw data in their heads.

What questions should I ask of the people I want to model?

That’s up to you. What do you want to know?

One of the best questions to ask though is this: “What would you do if you were me?” Obviously you first have to familiarize the other person with your current situation and your goals. But the question will almost invariably provoke a genuinely helpful and practical answer.

How important are people as resources as opposed to books, web sites, technology, and other non-human resources?

People are your greatest resource. In his book Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins lists this very statement as one of seven key beliefs that highly successful people tend to have in common. At the time I first read it, I disagreed with that statement because I felt technology or personal skills were slightly more important resources. It took several years, but I ultimately came to agree with Tony on this one. Imagine what you could do with all the world’s technological resources or with all the world’s information at your disposal. Now imagine what you could accomplish with all the world’s people on your side.

Anything else?

Sure. In addition to learning from people, it’s also helpful just to make contacts who know something you may eventually need. As a simple example, even though I’ve traveled to many cities within the USA, I’ve never traveled outside the USA, not even to Canada or Mexico. I know — that’s pretty sad, isn’t it? But I at least know many people who have (including my parents and all my siblings — my brother even lives in Japan), and I have friends who live all around the world. So if I ever get around to traveling abroad (which is one of my goals, but a bit tough with a one-year old), I can not only get copious advice from people who’ve done it, but I can also have a great time visiting friends and contacts wherever I go. Some of my customers have even offered to show me around if I ever visit their countries.

On the plus side, since I live in Las Vegas, the whole world comes to me. I can go visit the tourist areas and meet people from around the world (and then take their money at the poker tables). And I can visit cheesy versions of New York City, Venice, Paris, even the Star Trek: DS9 Promenade. 🙂