I first heard about Charlie a few months ago, though I was unknowingly enjoying the fruits of his work for a long time. Because among many other things he assisted Tim Ferriss with the marketing of Ferriss’ New York Times Bestseller “The Four Hour Body”, which helped me to get six-pack abs back in 2012.
Reading a post of his on Ferriss’ blog made me increasingly interested in what he did and how he did it. After watching his TEDx Talk I went from being amazed to becoming a fan. To give you an idea of what Charlie accomplished, get this: one of his first mentors was no less a person than Seth Godin. Charlie applied for a summer internship to work for Godin, was turned down, got the chance to do a virtual internship with 200 other applicants and simply outworked and outlasted nearly all of them. His work ethic got him promoted and he started to work as a virtual intern for Seth Godin. From then on his journey became even more impressive. He actively reached out and landed gigs with bestselling authors and accomplished entrepreneurs like Ramit Sethi, Tucker Max and Tim Ferriss.
After numerous successes and working himself to the verge of a nervous breakdown he quit working for others and started a company with Chad Muretta and Jason Adams. This resulted in an incredible financial success and on the first 10 days of the launch they made $2,000,000 in revenue. Once again, Charlie turned his back on this success. He started again to struggle with his own anxiety. He tried any number of things to overcome it. Finally he found a cure for it and captured this in his new book “Play it away”, which Tony Robbins calls “The cure to your stress”. Pretty impressive, huh?
Despite his success Charlie is incredibly humble and approachable. He took some time to talk to me about my upcoming TEDx talk and gave me some great input. We talked about mentors, relationships, fluoride in the US drinking water and Harry Potter. Here is what I’ve learned from Charlie:
1. Everybody can be your mentor
Even though Charlie obviously had the chance to work with some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, he started out on a completely different level. His first “mentor” was a local videographer from his city. Charlie would drive an hour just to help the guy move around the equipment and therefore learn from him how to film. Later on he would even mentor Charlie on which rates to charge when he had his own clients. So before reaching out to superstars he used the opportunities that were already at hand to learn.
So look around in your own neighborhood. If you are young and inexperienced there are people literally everywhere from whom you can and should learn valuable skills.
Starting out with local professionals makes complete sense, because all young entrepreneurs want to have Tim Ferriss or Robert Greene as a mentor. Though it is obviously impossible for a handful of superstar mentors to train thousands and thousands of young entrepreneurs. So reaching out to professionals from your town is a great way to get started and build necessary skills. The skills you learn there can eventually be used to build something on your own or hustle for an apprenticeship under an expert of your field.
2. Add value and be generous
The question that poses itself is: “How do you actually set up a mentor/mentee relationship?” Charlie has a very straightforward answer for this: come in with a present or a clear idea of what you can do that adds value to your mentor’s business.
Most people approach the luminaries of a field with their hands out, trying to extract something from them. Even just asking them out for a cup of coffee is, as Charlie states, by itself a very selfish act. First think about what you can bring to the table in this interaction. This can be something specific and elaborated, similar to when Charlie landed the gig with Tim by offering to make a video for his “about” section on his blog and setting up a forum for his readers. However, it doesn’t need to be that sophisticated. Charlie thinks it is enough to just rid the person of some menial work, like carrying around equipment for a videographer like he did when starting out. Obviously the more famous the person is, the more competition you have from other aspiring apprentices and it would be smart to come in with a clear and valuable suggestion of what you can offer.
Though even if you don’t want to engage in an apprenticeship-like relationship and just want to genuinely connect with people, Charlie thinks, it is essential to be generous. “Try to help everybody around you. Try to get in a position where you add value to people’s life or business.” This will eventually payback and people want you to be in their lives as friends, partners or as trusted advisors.
3. Be proactive
Another thing that I learned from Charlie is to be proactive. If you are a freelancer don’t wait for customers to come in, go out and pitch them. If you are an entrepreneur go out and talk to customers. If you are a young and inexperienced marketer go out and proactively pitch a possible mentor.
As a fantastic example of such proactivity he mentioned the web designer who is responsible for the website of Disney and Apple among many others. She didn’t wait for them to eventually find and hire her. She redesigned their homepage, then reached out to Apple and Disney saying that she would like to redesign the whole website if they were willing to hire her. So she actually approached them with a sample of what she was capable of, which was so convincing that they couldn’t help but hire her.
Charlie literally mastered this proactive type of finding an employer or mentor. He calls this approach “free work” and not only covered this idea in a TEDx talk which has more than 100.000 views but also wrote a whole manifesto on this called Recession Proof Graduate, which helped thousands of others to find a job or mentor and includes very actionable ideas on how to go about this.
4. We are all winging it
Many entrepreneurs or young professionals get upset because they are not sure if they are doing the right thing or because they have no idea where they are heading. Charlie says that this is normal. Even the guys who seem like they have figured it all out are just winging it.
In addition to this insecurity, if we are doing the right thing, our ego always tells us that the stuff we are producing is not good enough. This constant chatter of our ego is not very easy to overcome, because especially at the beginning of your career your execution is gonna suck and you don’t have a plan where you are going.
As Charlie says, these are typical struggles of being an entrepreneur, everybody has this and you need to accept it. Period!
5. Relationships matter most
As an entrepreneur it is fairly easy to spend days and days just sitting in front of your computer either in some coffee place or in your home office. Even if you might make a lot of money and successes are coming in, this is not the stuff that will make you happy. Charlie has been there! So he emphasizes the importance of relationships over and over again.
He is serious about this – whenever I watched Charlie doing career coaching he asked people about their psychological well-being and especially their connections to others. When he then offered them a solution for their career issues he often included a nice twist, which made them come into more contact with other people.
Looking at a lot of my entrepreneur friends I think most of us should follow Charlie’s advice more often when he says:
“Make it a priority to build a social circle and to have friends. At the end of the day deep and meaningful relationships is what will make you happy.”
Featured photo credit: Edward Druce via charliehoehn.com