Working With a Mentor – Origin Story Part 6

Published November 18, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“Hey Doberman Dan! I’m talking to you right now from the street corner! Can you hear me alright?” I asked, pressing my cell phone close to my ear to overcome the traffic noise.

“I sure can!” he replied.

“Awesome! I’m outside, waving my sign right now.”

Months earlier, had I signed up for a monthly newsletter and teleseminar by an experienced marketer and business owner. His name was Doberman Dan (because he loved the breed and the moniker stuck). As a bonus, he’d occasionally host open call-in days for one-on-one consultations. The rules were simple: For a period of two hours, he’d sit by the phone. If you called and the line was open, he’d answer and consult with you for 10 minutes. If the line was busy because someone else got through first, you kept dialing.

These call-in days always fell on workdays for me. I didn’t care. I called anyway. While I was outside.

Sometimes trying dozens and dozens of times to get through

Cell phone in one hand, sign in the other. If Doberman Dan answered, I’d take a break for the talk. Otherwise, I’d keep trying…

Except this particular day, when I’d already taken all my allotted breaks. So when he finally picked up (10 minutes before the call-in time period was over – I probably dialed about a hundred times that day) I simply stayed on the street corner as we spoke.

The topic of conversation was my latest marketing campaign. And rather than just give me 10 minutes of his time, Dan and I talked for closer to 20. I was grateful… but not surprised. We’d grown relatively close over the months. Let me back up and explain.

When I first signed up for his newsletter, I was happy to get some helpful, nitty-gritty information on marketing. And as I listened to recordings of the teleseminars he gave, I was startled by a conversation he had with a guest: They began talking about a certain kind of health product and how it’d probably be a good idea to own one.

I happened to sell such a product

Hmmm…

I grew excited as I realized how I could stand out from the crowd and get on this man’s radar. I decided to send him one of my products as a gift, with a letter explaining why it was exactly what he was looking for. Keep in mind this was a product with substantial wholesale costs for me. Much more than a book or something like that. So he’d understand I didn’t make this gesture this lightly.

Before work, I stopped by UPS and mailed the package, giddy to find out what would happen. In my enclosed letter, I included an introduction to myself and a way to contact me.

Four days later, we were on the phone

From then on, I did everything I could to maximize the amount of help he could give me. Every time he’d do a group teleseminar or had an open call-in day, I made sure to be ready with results and questions. The key part being the results. I didn’t just come up with a bunch of quandaries based on what I was thinking or planning. I didn’t emotionally vomit all over him with whining or moaning. Instead, all questions were based on what I’d tested out in the real-world, and the measurable results I’d achieved. Only from there did I ask for guidance on what to do next.

Action first. Then questions.

If I didn’t have time to gather any new data that particular month, there was a good chance I didn’t ask any questions.

And if I did, I took note of his answers, and took more action.

Usually, this involved me scrounging together a few hundred dollars to spend on another marketing campaign

At the time, I was making $10.50 an hour (but very soon got a 25-cent raise, that was pretty sweet) and paid $525 in rent. My food bill was roughly $30 per week. Then car insurance, gas, putting away 10%, giving away 10% to charity… yet I was able to stay a little bit ahead every single month.

Not having kids or medical problems helped. So did the discipline of literally not spending a single cent on anything other than rent, food, transportation… and business.

I learned from our dynamic. And I realized that my orientation for action was the perfect way to show him that I genuinely respected his help, rather than simply telling him so. That, combined with putting in some extra oomph to get on his radar, led to some interesting breakthroughs:

  • A few hours after our first conversation, he introduced me to a business owner that I asked to meet
  • He added a bit of extra time to his consulting calls to answer all my questions, without me even asking
  • He introduced me to trusted vendors
  • After a couple of years, he would make one of the most life-changing introductions of all time, for me (more on that in a future chapter)

It was all the more amazing considering that, as this man’s publishing and consulting business grew, he put in place barriers to entry so nobody could directly communicate with him, so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

On the other hand…

I always got the VIP pass

Never once did I have the urge to shove this experience into the ego realm. He was simply a guy who valued his time and space, and could provide me with some excellent help. My success was still my responsibility, and having a closer relationship to him was a humbling privilege, not a bragging right.

Much like my gratitude for my humble job, this mindset was new to me. What ignited the change? A life event most would regard as a tragedy.

In the years previous, I scrambled to make my businesses succeed because I needed the money. Badly. My life was a constant sprint to bring in some cash to pay off the most alarming credit card debt, and push forward to maybe… finally… seriously… get an income stream big enough for prosperity.

I starved for support from coaches that I should have cultivated for myself. Looking back, it’s clear I was trying to erect a rickety foundation for a skyscraper upon a dissolving sandbar. Because I “didn’t have the time” to take a walk back to find some solid rock. Plus, I didn’t think I needed to.

Until I gave up

Literally.

In mid-2012, it became public record that I was too financially crushed to pay my bills, and that I had to start over. A few months into my career as a sign spinner, I declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Next, I’ll write about that utterly bizarre experience.

Another interesting event:

While watching an educational video he made about writing advertising, I noticed how he made a subtle challenge to his audience. If they wrote an ad for him (without payment) for his own newsletter, and it performed better than the one Doberman Dan wrote… then he would pay that person a nice royalty income for all the new customers it generated.

After exhausting myself physically during my workday, I’d crawl home (metaphorically) and work on writing an ad for him. I don’t have any proof, but I believe I was the only student who ever took him up on the challenge.

Here’s something even more interesting:

It’s been over three years and he still hasn’t tested that ad! We plan to soon. I’d chide him about it, but the guy’s transformed my life in so many other ways that I don’t mind. Plus, from the beginning, I cared about the ad… but not too much.