Mentors, What Are They Good For?

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This is part four of a four-part series on business networking and connecting to influencers. If you haven’t read the first three parts yet, you can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

Hey, hey, it’s the Tony hour… where we put on tuxedos and evening gowns!

(No? Nobody? “Tony” as in… ah, nevermind.)

OK – so far this past month, I’ve shared with you 10 “little actions” that could double your income this year. But!! They came with a bunch of caveats…

  1. You actually have to care, connect and commit to the people you’re doing these “little actions” to… You can’t fake it! The universe’s karma police will know.
  2. You need to track these “little actions” on your reputation, network and opportunity scorecards to turn it into paying jobs… this is a multi-faceted game!
  3. “Little actions” are just tools in which you can build your own custom network (or family)… a tight-knit group of cool people you like working with and can support each other.
  4. Oh and of course…

  5. You actually have to be somewhat good at the skillset you’re selling. None of the above matters unless you can actually write copy that converts (or whatever craft, product or skillset you’re selling). That should go without saying, but you know, just in case…

Now – as you may have noticed by now…

I’m all about the inner work. That spiritual woo-woo stuff matters to me. I’m not religious nor am I superstitious… but I do believe there’s something buzzing just beneath the surface of the universe. You can call it karma, the tao or even ley lines. I don’t care. I’m sure there’s actual science to back this stuff up. We just haven’t discovered it yet.

But rant aside — In order to be the sort of person that can care and connect to others in this specific way… I truly believe you need to work out your own kinks and issues.

It’s very hard to be open, vulnerable and honest — which creates deep, deep connection — if you’re not a grounded person. If you’re insecure, or your ego’s in the way, or whatever… People can see through it very quickly. Not everyone of course, but the people I like to work with… who are also cool, authentic and on the same wavelength… our radar can pick that stuff up.

Now, I’m not saying mercenary jerks don’t make money. They do… if they’re really good at what they do. But people would rather not work with them and are constantly looking for excuses to break ties with them.

What’s unfortunate about the direct response world is that it tends to attract these sort of people. I’m fairly certain our world has a higher correlation of psychopaths — just like politics, the legal profession and the corporate executive class.

So when you do find cool, grounded people who are running 8-9 figure companies… and they’re out there (I can name a few)… you want to ladder up to those types of clients. People who can pay you well and treat you right. Not naming any names… but life’s too short to work for a #1 NYT bestselling author who wants a sales funnel done by 4PM because he had an idea for it the night before.

Sorry. I’m meandering here.

I tend to get this way when I talk about stuff like this. I don’t see life as a simple black and white thing. It’s a braid you have to unravel to understand.

But to get to the point…

Everything I’ve written about in the past four weeks… the “little actions”the cool spreadsheetsthe scoring tracks

This stuff can generate tremendous results for you only when…

  1. You’re grounded. You’re comfortable with yourself. As Brene Brown says, you don’t puff up, nor do you shrink. You are who you are. And…
  2. When you’re in that state of cool… you can read people better. You know who’s worth working with and who you should cut out of your life. Who should you allow in your inner sanctum as part of your family. Who you would fight to protect and stick your neck out for.

In my last decade of working in this world, I’ve come to hone my radar for this.

One of my very first clients was an aspiring real estate guru. Complete and utter psychopath. He’d buy up a 60-unit housing complex for pennies on the dollar after bullying and exploiting a desperate buyer… fix it up quickly and turn around and make millions. Guy made money. No doubt about that. But if there’s one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s a bully. I was bullied as a child. I don’t put up with that bullshit.

You know that whole negotiating tactic of “first who speaks loses”? Well in late 2009, I was freshly laid off and I had to make this copywriting thing a go. He wanted me to work on his stuff full-time. I was desperate, but still willing to walk away. That was the key. I named my price and shut my mouth. He didn’t talk. Within a minute I knew we were playing this stupid game. You want to know how crazy this guy is? We didn’t talk for an hour. I put him on mute and fed my child and surfed the Internet. His phone battery ran out and hung up on me. (Later, I found out he stuck his handset under a cushion and watched T.V.)

I got my money in the end… and as a bonus, I got front-row seats to a psychopath. I can pick them off a mile away now.

Of course, that’s an extreme story. But I wanted to share it because it tells you where I started on my journey. As I kept developing my radar better… by training myself to be more grounded… and of course, just through encountering the entire spectrum of clients… I got better at picking out the flakes, the whiners and the people who’ll stiff you.

Now, I didn’t get good at this by myself.

Between 2010-2013, I worked with a mentor that truly and thoroughly transformed my life. I wrote daily updates to him for two years before tapering off to weekly ones for our last two years together.

When you filter all your experiences through a mentor whose job is to care, protect and guide you… who will show you the nuanced distinction of what you’re doing right or wrong… who will work deeply with you on your demons and point out your mistakes before you even make them… calling out your B.S. at every corner and turn… you grow up fast.

“Mentor X”, as I lovingly call him here at The Cave, kept me alive during those initial years. My income doubled three years consecutively. But it wasn’t about the money. It was the transformation.

Funny thing? I can count on one hand the number of times we actually talked about copy. “Mentor X” knew I could write and I’d figure that part out on my own.

But the inner work? That’s where he knew he could have the most impact and transform me into the kind of person that could leapfrog to higher level clients.

It sucks, but we’ve sold a whole generation of people on the fact that as long as you work hard… you’ll be fine. It’s just not the case.

In my industry, we tell copywriters that as long as they get results, they’ll be fine. Same deal: it’s not true. It’s ironic because the gurus selling them on this dream are broke themselves. Perfect example: Gary Halbert. He died penniless.

A few years ago, I was speaking with someone who was very close to him. He saw firsthand how this genius would make millions and then promptly blow it all away. And in a very rare moment of vulnerable honesty, Gary confessed to him, “You know, in my mind, I’m still the poor boy from Akron, Ohio. It’s like I never left.”

Sorry. I’m meandering again.

The point of this final post with you is to talk about mentors. Should you get one? How do you find one? How do you know you’ve found the right one?

Let me throw it back at you. What are you looking for in one?

There are mentors that have a brand name, have tons of business coming in and they’ll mentor you …if you can help them with their workload. These guys are basically running an agency and want a bunch of interns to work for free or dirt cheap. Can you get good in this environment? Sure. But will you develop your own sense of self? Probably not.

I did this for my first two mentors. I got a little validation. I honed my skills a bit. And through a few of their crazy schemes, I got my first few clients as well. Nothing wrong with that.

Some mentors are “professional coaches”. If you read as many books as I do and consume as many courses… you’re going to quickly find that these guys are just regurgitating the same advice back to you, except you paid them $1,000 for a phone call and a few emails. This isn’t inherently wrong. I mean, there’s a lot of training out there… and having someone remind you of certain things you already know at the exact right time can help.

I had this for two months with a third mentor. I couldn’t justify the price though.

Then there are mentors who are “gurus”. They have tons of content out there. Blogs, newsletters, courses, videos, interviews, etc. etc. When I first started in this game, I consumed a LOT of material. You name someone in the 2007-2011 era who put out a copywriting or marketing course… or was a “guru”… I read their stuff.

Problem was, when I paid for semi-private coaching with these gurus, the advice I got was… their content, but repeated (sometimes verbatim) to me. LOL. Maybe I shouldn’t have been such a diligent student in the first place!

It wasn’t until Mentor X that I truly felt the power of having someone guide you through this crazy wilderness called “freelancing”. I would ask questions to him and instead of regurgitating advice from some book, he would say, “No Tony. That’s a dumb question. You should be asking this instead.”

You’ve probably heard of this Tony Robbin quote: “Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” That’s what Mentor X did for me. Instead of answering my questions like: Should I start a blog? Should I set up an funnel? How do I get clients?… he threw my questions back at my face and showed me why I shouldn’t be asking them. Why they were the wrong question to ask.

Mentor X didn’t give me validation. He showed me how to not need it and feel confident myself.

Mentor X never really referred me much business (he wasn’t in my world)… but he showed me how to build my own inner network.

To this day… whenever I get lazy about prospecting… I can hit up my network and build my business back up in four to six months. I know, because I goofed off in 2015 and 2017 and had to pull myself out of the hole I dug. That’s real job security.

Mentor X was private, discreet and under-the-radar. He’s one of those “hidden influencers” I talked about last week. I had to beg him to work with me. He’s extremely selective. He works with White House consultants who have access to the power corridors of Washington. He works with media relation types that get their clients on major networks. Why he chose to work with me is still a mystery to me.

But once he committed to me, I was fully protected, well cared for and defended from the bad guys. I can’t count the number of times he’s helped me write back emails to clients who were trying to wheedle down my price. One time, a big name guru wrote me something that was just super disrespectful. I was dumbfounded. Mentor X composed an email for me. I sent it off and within seconds — SECONDS — big name guru called me on the phone to apologize.

He showed me how to defend myself, pull out my knives when I needed to, make fun of clients to loosen up the tension, and recognize people I shouldn’t work with.

Now, having said all that…

Unfortunately, I don’t know how you can find a mentor like I did. I lucked out. I was blessed.

But that’s not completely true either…

If you do what I’ve taught you in the last four weeks… and start building your own personal network with “little actions”… you’re going to come across people like Mentor X. People who are grounded. People who “have it together”. People who work in the shadows and choose not to be public. People who aren’t selling coaching… but through your interactions with them, give you damn good advice… and you know they can help you on your journey…. Ask them to be your mentor. Offer money. Don’t be an idiot.

That’s the best I can offer you.

And with that, our time together has come to an end. Once again, I’m way over the word limit. Now, of course, I meandered a lot today. But I hope you got a lot of what you wouldn’t usually get. That’s really my goal here.

I know there are tons of blogs, articles, and courses giving you “7-steps to”, “10 ways to” or “One Weird Trick to” stuff. That’s not my M.O. as you now know.

To me, you gotta do the inner work. That’s what we talk about here at The Cave. You can’t just do one or the other. It’s gotta be both. Strategies and inner work.

I’d love if you stuck around and be a part of the community Joshua and I are growing here.

With warmest regards,
Tony

Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash

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