By Jack Canfield
It’s often been said that success is a team sport. It’s not just what you know, it’s also who you know. And while you may be able to create tremendous success on your own, traveling the path of success with others makes the journey more enjoyable. Plus, the added accountability will propel you to success faster (and further) than you originally envisioned.
In my career, success in any undertaking has come down to not just who I know—but also who I have on my team. Along the way, I’ve learned a number of success principles that can now help you build your own network of influencers, mentors and experts—and develop a support team of people who can help you succeed.
BUILD YOUR PERSONAL NETWORK OF INFLUENCERS AND EXPERTS BY DEVELOPING GENUINE RELATIONSHIPS
One of the most important skills for success in today’s world, especially for entrepreneurs and business owners, is networking. Jim Bunch, the creator of the Ultimate Game of Life, once stated, “Your network will determine your net worth.” In my life this has proven to be true. The more time I have spent consciously building and nurturing my network of advisers, colleagues, clients, students and fans, the more successful I have become.
Businesses and careers are built on relationships, and relationships form when people meet and interact with each other over time in an authentic and caring way. As I’m sure you’re aware, statistics confirm over and over that people prefer to do business with people they know, respect and trust.
Effective networking, therefore, is all about developing relationships.
Your goal for networking
In developing your own personal network, your job is to seek out people who know what you don’t—and who can help you connect where you can’t. Initially, your goal shouldn’t be to make a sale, but instead to seek advice, connections, recommendations and insights. To the extent that you can provide something in return, do so. But remember that developing genuine relationships that you can call upon at any time—for years into the future, potentially—takes time and consideration. It requires careful thought and a mindfulness for others.
My good friend Ivan Misner, founder of the international networking phenomenon BNI Worldwide, explains that good networking is a combination of three things: visibility, credibility and profitability.
Visibility is you and another individual becoming aware of each other. The individual—who may be a source of information, referrals to people who can help you or even a potential customer—may learn about you through your public relations, social media or advertising efforts—or through someone you both know. Soon, you might become personally acquainted and communicate on a first-name basis. That’s visibility.
Credibility means you take the next step and become reliable and worthy of the other person’s confidence. You begin to form expectations of each other and those expectations are fulfilled. Credibility increases when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified, and services are rendered. The old saying, Results speak louder than words, is true. Credibility also comes from third parties. Will someone they know vouch for you? Are you honest? Is your project or business legitimate? Are you effective? Are you someone who can be counted on in a crunch? If you are, your credibility will grow—as will important and beneficial relationships.
Profitability is what comes from mature relationships (business or personal) that are mutually rewarding and where both people gain something from the connection. This stage may be reached quickly— such as when an urgent need arises—or it may take years. Most likely, it’s somewhere in between. Of course, much depends on the quality of your interaction with each other—but most especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.
My closest and most productive network
Of course, profiting from relationships isn’t limited to making money from a new customer or getting a referral. It may come in the form of a connection to someone who can help you launch a new initiative or otherwise grow your business. It may include access to a mentor or a professional adviser or a contact in another industry who can help you expand your market. It might be the ability to delegate more of your workload, gain substantial free time for your hobby or personal interests—or spend more quality time with your family.
My closest and most productive network has included my business partner Patty Aubery and my Success Principles coauthor Janet Switzer—two women who’ve not only been close friends and colleagues for 25 years, but who have also developed a robust and influential network from which I’ve benefitted. By combining their own contact lists with people I know, we’ve generated millions of dollars in business, accumulated 1 million Facebook fans, and produced millions of customers, clients and students who follow The Success Principles. Our combined contact lists are filled with hundreds of key individuals who can help out with advice, direction, a name, an idea, resources, marketing assistance and more. At any time, we can ask each other, Who do we know who can help with this new initiative? . . . confident that we can get our needs and wants addressed within days. That’s the real “profitability” of a network.
FORM A MASTERMIND GROUP TO KEEP YOU FOCUSED, ENTHUSIASTIC AND INNOVATIVE
One of the most powerful tools for success ever identified is a process called masterminding. We all know that two heads are better than one when it comes to solving a problem or creating a result. So imagine having a permanent group of five to six people who meet regularly for the purpose of problem-solving, brainstorming, networking, encouraging and motivating each other.
Napoleon Hill first wrote about mastermind groups in 1937 in his classic book Think and Grow Rich. All the world’s richest industrialists— from the early 20th Century to today’s modern icons of business— have harnessed the power of the mastermind group. In fact, it’s the one concept achievers reference most when they credit any one thing with helping them become successful.
Millions have discovered that a mastermind group can focus special energy on your efforts—in the form of knowledge, new ideas, introductions, a vast array of resources, and, most important, spiritual energy. It’s this spiritual aspect that Napoleon Hill wrote about extensively. He said that if we are in tune with the mastermind—that is, God, Source, the universal power, Infinite Intelligence—we have significantly more positive energy available to us, a power that can be focused on our success.
How a mastermind group works
A mastermind group is made up of people who come together on a regular basis—weekly, biweekly, or monthly—to share ideas, thoughts, information, feedback, contacts, and resources. By getting the perspective, knowledge, experience, and resources of others in the group, not only can you greatly expand your own limited view of the world, but you can also advance your own goals and projects more quickly.
A mastermind group can be composed of people from your own industry or profession—or people from different walks of life. It can focus on business issues, personal issues or both. But for a mastermind group to be powerfully effective, people must be comfortable enough with each other to tell the truth. Some of the most valuable feedback I have ever received has come from members of my mastermind group confronting me about overcommitting, selling my services too cheaply, focusing on the trivial, not delegating enough, thinking too small, and playing it safe.
If you’re not in a mastermind group already, I recommend that you form one (or join one) as soon as possible.
Mastermind groups nurture new ideas and initiatives
In 2010, Jill Douka of Athens, Greece left my Breakthrough to Success training with the commitment to be part of a mastermind group with five other attendees from different countries. When the economic downturn in Greece began affecting her local network, Jill looked forward to meeting with her global mastermind group on Skype and Google Hangouts—spending an hour every other week using words other than default, unemployment and debt.
Before long, Jill learned through her mastermind group about TED talks and gave her first international speech in Chennai, India. On the plane trip home, an idea took shape in her mind: what if instead of just one TED talk, Jill created positive-focused, interactive events—then made videos of them available on YouTube so people around the world could benefit?
While civil unrest and economic problems in Greece made Jill hesitant to discuss her idea with colleagues in Athens, her mastermind group was enthusiastic. With their constant encouragement and support, Jill held the first one-day workshop in Athens to a jam-packed audience of 500 attendees and 300 livestream participants—all supported by 70 volunteers and 57 corporate sponsors. The feedback was tremendous. The following November, Sergio Sedas—another of my graduates— produced the second such event in Mexico—with more than 4,000 people participating in interactive solution-focused workshops given by presenters from the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda.
What could a mastermind group do for you?
FIND A MENTOR AND FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE
Another key strategy that successful people use is to constantly seek out experts in their field for advice, direction and information. The truth is there are countless people who’ve triumphed over the specific hardship you’re facing—or who have succeeded in your specific area of endeavor. Why not take advantage of all that wisdom and experience by finding a mentor who has already been down the road you want to travel?
All you have to do is ask.
It’s easier than you think
While it may seem daunting at first to contact successful people and ask for ongoing advice and assistance, it’s easier than you think to enlist the mentorship of those who are far ahead of you in the areas in which you’d like to succeed.
What mentors do more than anything, says famed speaker and bestselling author Les Brown, is help you see possibilities. In other words, mentors help you overcome “possibility blindness” both by acting as a role model for you and by conveying a certain level of expectation as they communicate with you.
When Les started his speaking career in the early 1980s, he sent a cassette tape of his earliest keynote speech to the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the world-renowned speaker and publisher of Guideposts magazine. That cassette tape led to a long and fruitful relationship for Les, as Dr. Peale not only took Les under his wing and counseled him on his speaking style, but also quietly opened doors and helped Les get important speaking engagements.
Perhaps like Les, you just need someone to open doors for you. Or perhaps you need a referral to a technical expert who can help you build a new service for your company. Maybe you simply need validation that the path you’re pursuing is the right one. A mentor can help you with all of these things, but you need to be prepared to ask for specific advice.
Do your homework
One of the easiest ways to research the names and backgrounds of people who have been successful in your field is to read industry magazines, search the Internet, ask trade association executive directors, attend trade shows and conventions, call fellow entrepreneurs or approach others who operate in your industry or profession.
Look for mentors who have the kind of well-rounded experience you need to tackle your goal. When you start seeing a pattern of the same few people being recommended, you know you’ve identified your shortlist of possible mentors.
The Success Principles coauthor Janet Switzer regularly mentors people on how to grow their small business. When Lisa Miller of CRA Management Group called Janet, she was just about to sign away a large percentage of her revenues to someone she thought would help her develop a new area of her business. Janet showed Lisa how to instantly accomplish the same goal without outside parties and even helped her land new business from existing clients, accelerating Lisa’s company growth plan by four months and earning her hundreds of thousands of extra dollars.
To contact possible mentors like Janet and ensure a successful conversation once you do, make a list of specific points you’d like to cover in your first conversation, such as why you’d like them to mentor you and what kind of help you might be looking for. Be brief, but be confident, too.
The truth is that successful people like to share what they have learned with others. It’s a human trait to want to pass on wisdom. Not everyone will take the time to mentor you, but many will if asked. You simply need to make a list of the people you would like to have as your mentor and ask them to devote a few minutes a month to you.
Some will say no, but some will say yes. Keep asking people until you get a positive response.
Follow their advice and return the favor
Mentors don’t like to have their time wasted. So when you seek out their advice, follow it. Study their methods, ask your questions, make sure you understand the process—then, as much as is humanly possible, follow your mentor’s suggestions. Try them on and see how they work for you. You can always adjust and improve upon them as you go along.
Be prepared to give your mentors something in return, too—even if it’s something simple such as keeping them updated on industry information or calling with new opportunities that might benefit them. Look for ways to give back to your mentors. Help others, too. What a great reward to any mentor—to eventually have their former protégé out in the world mentoring others!
BUILD A POWERFUL TEAM THAT LETS YOU FOCUS ON YOUR CORE GENIUS
Every high achiever has a powerful team of key staff members, consultants, vendors, and helpers who do the bulk of the work while he or she is free to create new sources of income and new opportunities for success. The world’s greatest philanthropists, athletes, entertainers, professionals, and others also have people who manage projects and handle everyday tasks—enabling them to do more for others, hone their craft, practice their sport and so on.
To help you clarify what you should be spending your time on and what you should be delegating to others, I recommend an exercise called The Total Focus Process. The goal is to find the top one, two or three activities that best use your core genius, bring you the most money, and produce the greatest level of enjoyment.
- Start by listing those activities that occupy your time, whether they’re business-related, personal or volunteer List even small tasks like returning phone calls, filing or photocopying.
- Choose from this list those one, two or three things you’re particularly brilliant at, your special talents—those unique things very few other people can do as well as Also choose from this list the three activities that generate the most income for you or your company. Any activities that you are brilliant at and that generate the most income for you or your company are activities you’ll want to focus on.
- Finally, create a plan for delegating remaining activities to Delegating takes time and training, but over time you can off-load the nonessential tasks on your list until you are doing less of the ones with little payoff—and more of what you’re really good at. That is how you create a brilliant career.
Seek out key “staff” members and advisors
If you’re a business owner or career professional, start training key people to take over the tasks you identified above. If you’re a one-person business, start looking for a dynamic number-two person who could handle your projects, book your sales transactions, and completely take over other tasks while you concentrate on what you do best. If philanthropic pursuits or community projects are your “business,” there are volunteers you can “hire” to help you—including college interns, who may work solely for class credit.
And if you are a stay-at-home parent, your most valuable “staff” will be your house cleaner, your babysitter and other people who can help you get away for time by yourself or with your spouse. A part-time helper can do grocery shopping, get your car washed, pick up the kids or pick up the dry cleaning—all for a modest wage. If you’re a single parent, these folks are even more important to your successful future.
In addition to business and personal helpers, high achievers typically have a powerful team of professional advisors to turn to for support. Today’s world is a complicated place. Professional advisors—such as your banker, your lawyers, a high-net-worth certified public accountant, your investment counselor, your doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer, and the leader of your religious organization—can walk you through challenges and opportunities, saving you time, effort and usually money. If you run a business, these advisors are essential.
BUILD A COMMUNITY AND PASS ON YOUR LEGACY
To truly master the art of success, you also need to pursue one more critical activity: building a community of followers who can join you in expanding your work, fulfilling your vision and—most importantly— securing your legacy.
Virtually all great thinkers of our age have managed to pass down their wisdom and life’s work once they can no longer be active. Today, that “act of succession” is easier than ever.
The Internet and social media makes it possible
Today, social media has hit the tipping point where we’re now seeing millions of followers convert into fellow devotees, passionate advocates, enthusiastic buyers, and committed partners for social change. Building a community of followers for your work or philanthropic pursuit guarantees there will be a network of people to join you in virtually any venture you want to pursue.
The key is to attract followers who will stay engaged with you and your message—then pass on your information to their own friends, colleagues and fans. To reach that goal, you’ll want to maintain an ongoing presence on the most popular social media sites including Facebook, Linked In and Twitter.
While you can spend time writing your own posts and articles, then master the technology needed to “boost” your social media activity, I recommend you check out: Social5Marketing.com/details, a done- for-you service that provides a team of world-class writers from top publications with smart online marketers to write, post and even run advertising for you on the major social media platforms.
Best of all, your online activity is scheduled, managed, executed and tracked for less than you’d pay your teenager. Whether you use this service (which also writes your blog, does email marketing and helps generate prospective buyers for your business or cause), you’ll want to establish a personal brand, build your online presence, and pursue community building as an activity to ultimately support your success.