Learning from the Best
By: Herbert Lui, Staff Writer
We’ve all had trouble focusing on any single task. Should I be thinking about school or work? There’s a constant tug of war taking place in our minds.
This is why I find clarity by learning from the best. And I don’t mean this in an elitist, snobby way. By the best, I mean people you truly respect and wish to emulate. It only makes sense to take advice from people who have achieved what you want in life.
It only makes sense to take advice from people who have achieved what you want in life.
A biography is like a speech on someone’s life: how they lived, achieved success and dealt with imminent failure. Even though I’ve never personally known Steve Jobs or Jay-Z, I’ve learned a lot from their biographies. I got fresh inspiration on creativity from “Steve Jobs” by Isaacson and the intersection of business and art from Jay-Z’s “Decoded” and “Empire State of Mind” by Zack O’Malley Greenburg.
Who are your heroes? Learn as much as you can from these people by reading their biographies and life stories.
How do you find your hero’s e-mail address? I’ve found these tips to be very helpful, which my friends have used to get in touch with entrepreneurs, mentors, and other people that they look up to. Once you get in touch with them, write an e-mail and be honest about who you are and how their work affected you. Also, don’t forget to mention what you are passionate about and how it is related to what they do.
Now, keep in mind that your heroes are probably very busy people. Their inbox is likely to be overwhelmed on a daily basis, filled with various business offers or their own stuff. That’s okay. Just keep trying.
Time your e-mail to be received at around 7:40AM in their time zone. You can use something like Boomerang for Gmail. Ask if it’s convenient for them to hop on a Skype or the phone (buy a phone card if your plan doesn’t cover long distance). Better yet, meet them in person and have a series of questions ready.
Alternatively, some of them will be nice enough to answer your questions through e-mail. I once shot an e-mail to Ishida Gupta, the creator of Fearless magazine. (It has been a dream of mine to start a magazine.) Seven months later, she replied. It made my day.
She shared a lot of her experience through each of my questions, including this:
“I made a list of everyone who inspired me and started with the top 50 and worked my way down. I just called, emailed, and wrote to them until I got through. Most everyone said yes. Except Donald Trump. ”
I’ve found my roles with Techvibes and BetaKit to pay off ten-fold. It’s because I get to sit down with great people who are enthusiastic about answering my questions because I’m with the press.
It may not seem like a lot of time, but twenty minutes with someone is enough to pick their brain on nearly anything. Granted, it takes a good amount of research to make sure you don’t waste time covering stuff that they’ve already talked about in other interviews.
I’ve been able to meet people like Arianna Huffington (creator of Huffington Post), Robert Wong (executive creative director at Google Labs), and Harley Morenstein (creator of EpicMealTime) through conferences that I was invited to as a writer.
If you’re interested in a role like this, the Impact Entrepreneurship Group will be looking for contributors to speak with veteran entrepreneurs and people that excel in their fields as diverse as fashion, journalism, and consulting. Sign up for the newsletter now and be the first to find out about this.
Be consistent. Show up, and execute on the articles you read. Execute on this. Start reading up on the people you want to become like and look for parallel paths of success.
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