Here’s an excerpt from my next book, Reach Your Mountaintop: 10 Keys to Finding the Hidden Opportunity in Your Setbacks, Flipping What You’ve Heard on Its Head, and Achieving Legendary Goals, set to be published on November 1st, 2016. In addition to sharing my own insights, in the book I featured 27 world-renowned thought leaders and experts I met at various conferences across five different continents:
Meeting Randy Gage
Growing my speaking career, I decided to go to the National Speakers Association annual conference in Washington, D.C., in July of 2015. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I learned a lot of tips about how to take my business to the next level. I’m extremely independent, and I don’t like to follow set rules, but I’ve found that there’s value in being on someone else’s schedule at times. The National Speakers Association is a very credible, legitimate, and useful organization, so the four-day conference was well worth my time.
On the final day of the conference, successful singer, humorist, and speaker Jane Herlong was sitting next to me at lunch. She liked my energy and said,
“You know, Jeff, if you’re really serious about growing your speaking business, you should go and talk to Randy Gage.”
She pointed diagonally, and there sitting at a table near us was Randy Gage. The table was full.
“I’d go up to him right now,” she said. “Tell him you’d like to learn about his success. Just make sure that you do more listening than talking. Randy really knows how to add value to his clients. His insights are very useful.”
I had a few more bites of my meal and then I went over to the table he was sitting at.
“Hey Randy, I’m Jeff Davis,” I said. “Would love to sit down with you and chat for a few minutes and ask you a few questions about your success and how you got to where you are.”
“Would love to, but not this instant,” Randy said. “Catch me right after lunch is over and I’d be happy to chat with you.”
Randy is an author, professional speaker, entrepreneur, and marketer with an amazing story of overcoming some incredibly challenging setbacks, such as dropping out of school, being in a jail cell as a teen, getting shot in the abdomen, and nearly becoming bankrupt. His book, Risky is The New Safe, became a bestseller, as have his other books. He’s spoken in more than fifty countries and has inspired millions of people around the world, making millions in the process. He lives his message and is incredibly authentic – a perfect match for this book.
With lunch still going, I ran into some women from my home state of Connecticut. They didn’t know I was in DC and excitedly asked me a bunch of questions, impressed I was able to make it to the “mother ship” (the national conference is where all the individual local chapters of the National Speakers Association across the United States and the world come together).
As often happens in conversations, time slipped by and when I looked around I couldn’t find Randy. But there’s enormous value in seeing someone face-to-face, even if only briefly, because when I contacted Randy afterward he was kind enough to continue the conversation with me over the phone.
How to Connect with Successful People
In the book, after the above excerpt, I go into Randy’s insights from our conversation as it pertains to the theme of the book, which is to define your own version of success and revolutionize your life. In this blog post, I’m going to share some tips and insights on how you can connect with extremely successful people. Here they are:
- Meet them face-to-face. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction, so if the person you want to connect with is going to a conference, event, or gathering of some sort you know they’re attending, go there and make it a point to introduce yourself. Ask if it’s alright if you follow-up with them in the future.
- Stay humble and ask questions. I’m glad I became friends with Jane and got her advice. Rather than talk about myself, she encouraged me to keep the focus on asking questions. You may have done epic things with your life, but remember you are talking to someone at the top of their industry and they can probably one-up you in terms of achievements. Rather than try to impress them, express genuine interest in their lives, their expertise, and how they got to where they are.
- Make a personal connection. I recently got legendary author and speaker Brian Tracy to provide a glowing testimonial of my next book, Reach Your Mountaintop. I got Brian’s direct email by listening to this YouTube video with Rory Vaden and Brian Tracy on self-discipline and the speaking business (Rory used a great success tactic, which is to never be afraid to ask for what you want). When I emailed Brian, I made it personal. I specifically shared how his insights helped me at different times in my life, sharing a couple of examples. I also mentioned how a tactic I learned from him – imagining no limitations – led me to ask him for a testimonial. By specifically sharing with Brian how he changed my life, it made it a lot harder for him to say no. If you send someone a generic email, it increases the chances of rejection.
- Add Value. Piggybacking off of the previous point, offer some kind of value to the successful person you are contacting. Offer to give them something they’d appreciate. I offered to provide Brian with a YouTube testimonial, feature him on LinkedIn Pulse, and feature him on my blog, and he liked that.
- Try an Unorthodox Form of Communication. Sometimes email works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you aren’t able to attend a conference where the person you are looking to connect with will be at and email isn’t working, try calling their business line or sending snail mail. So many people stick to email that the person you want to speak with may be impressed you had the balls to call them. A hand-written letter also stands out because so few people take the time to do something like that.
- Get a referral. We all know that referrals are powerful for new business – they are also useful for meeting powerful people. My friend Kevin Kruse, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, featured Mark Cuban in his book (Kevin is helping me promote my next book). If I cold call or cold email the Shark Tank star my chances of getting through to him are slim to none, but if Kevin refers me there’s a possibility I could grab coffee with Mark.
- Learn how others did it and do the same. Ask others how they managed to connect with successful people and brainstorm creative ways to cut through the noise. Scott Dinsmore, a legendary blogger and entrepreneur, created a Live Your Legend community geared towards encouraging you to connect with the right people. Read this Live Your Legend post on how to connect with uber-successful people. I first found out about Scott through one of Randy’s periscope sessions. Very tragically, Scott died in a freak accident while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in September of 2015. Time is short – don’t wait until tomorrow to connect with successful people.
- Take a Risk. One of my all-time favorite Randy Gage quotes, which I mentioned in the book, is “don’t ever let someone else’s limiting beliefs become yours.” Consider that not everything you hear is always true; the person you are trying to contact may be easier to reach than others believe. A few days ago I sent an extremely successful author an email and he responded a day later. Rather than overthinking it, your best bet may be to take a risk and just try to contact the person. As Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Go for it.
Earlier this year in 2016 Randy was kind enough to share my post on social media, How to Move Forward When You Feel Like Your Life Is Over. Being connected to people like Randy is extremely valuable and worth the risk. Did I feel a bit afraid when I approached Randy during lunch at the conference in Washington, D.C. while he was sitting with so many successful people? I’ll admit it – yes, I did. But was that temporary feeling of embarrassment worth it for the chance to feature this absurdly successful human being in my next book, which I’ll be distributing internationally? Yes. 100%.
Ask yourself: what do you have to lose? The worst that can happen is that the person says no or doesn’t respond. But if they say yes, you gain tremendous benefits, the opportunity to learn something new, and the chance to continue making a real difference in the lives of others.
See you at the Mountaintop.
Jeff Davis is an author, professional speaker, and world traveler. For updates on his next book, follow him on twitter.