This post will take you ~5 minutes to read.
Sometimes, usually after I have an epiphany, I wish I could talk to future me (maybe…10 years from now), and ask him for advice and guidance. He’s already done all of this, he knows so much more than I do, and has gathered so much wisdom! Unfortunately, time travel is not yet possible; we can’t talk to our future selves, and thus, we are stuck.
How many times have you said to yourself one of the following: “Man, if only I knew then what I know now,” or “If I could only talk to my teenage self,” or “What was I thinking? I wish I could slap that guy!”
Usually, this happens after we’ve just realized that we made a huge, or costly, yet avoidable mistake. We wish we had the knowledge then that we have now, so we could have avoided that mistake.
There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, though. Without mistakes, we would never ever learn. Did you ever notice in school how you would retain what you learned much better after missing it on an exam versus those questions you got right? It’s because we naturally learn from our mistakes. We can’t avoid it – it’s human nature.
Mistakes are the portals of discovery
So having the knowledge to avoid mistakes is not what we want. But what if we had a guide not about where not to step, but on where we should step. Continuing the idea of talking to our future selves, that’s the difference between hearing:
“You shouldn’t move to California…it’s not going to work out well for you”
“You should go and learn how to write computer code now. I know it’s boring, but you’ll need to learn it at some point, and it will make your life so much easier”
Do you see how one is guiding you against a decision, and another draws you toward an action? That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what I wish I had – a means of expediting the journey.
You can Talk to your Future Self
It’s entirely possible to talk to yourself from 10 years from now. What’s the secret? Talk to someone who has already done it. Someone who has 10 years on you. They can mentor you, and provide the feedback you need to help you on your journey. They have the wisdom of 10 extra years doing what you want to do.
It’s brilliant in its simplicity, no?
Here’s How to do it:
- Figure out (roughly) what you want to be doing in 10 years. (5 years if it’s in the tech arena)
- Identify 5 people who are where you want to be
- Someone you know
- Someone you have met
- Someone who is successful but not well known
- Someone who is known in the community
- Someone who is famous
- Target each of them with one simple, yet poignant question
The reason for the five hero approach is that you need diversity of opinion, experience, and personality. Plus, you
might will not get them all to reply and develop a rapport with you.
It should be simple.
It should be something they can answer.
It should be unique. (not the “what’s the one biggest thing you’d recommend” crap)
It should be useful for you.
It should not take them more than 30 seconds to answer.
Now, gather their contact information, and either call them (preferred), or e-mail them.
You: Hi, Mr/Ms. (Hero)?
You: My name is [Your name]. I’m an aspiring [Your desired field of excellence]. I was wondering if you have time to answer one quick question for me. It won’t take more than 30 seconds.
Them: Sure, go ahead.
Them: That’s a great question. You see…
Now, if they seem hurried, thank them politely and bid them adieu. If they are chatty, or have asked you a question in return, you’re in. Now you can talk to them more freely, but always be aware that they are giving up their time for you, and don’t go on for too long. At the end be very gracious, and thank them for their time.
Subject 1: 30 Seconds for an aspiring [Field of excellence]
Subject 2: (30 seconds) [Your question]?
My name is [Your name]. I’m an aspiring [Your desired field of excellence].
Could you take 30 seconds to answer the following question? It would mean the world to me.
Thank you so much for your time,
The follow up is the most important step in the process. There are a few tactics you must follow.
If you know what your hero is in to, consider sending them something they’ll like. Are they a starving artist? Send a Gift card to their favorite restaurant. A wealthy tycoon? Try their favorite chocolates, or a cool high-end shaving it, or something that will help you stand out. This should arrive no later than 2 weeks after your meeting.
It is mandatory that you include a personal note (preferably hand written) thanking them, and reminding them of what you spoke about.
Update on your Progress
You must send an update on your progress.
If you cannot afford a gift, that’s fine, but updating them on your progress is absolutely mandatory.
When people give advice, they want to know that it has been followed. Follow up via a hand-written note, a phone call, an e-mail, or perhaps even over coffee. You want to tell them what their advice was (busy people forget) and how you have put it to use. Ideally, you should include results. (“I have already increased my customers by 40% thanks to your advice!”) People are often willing to help once, but if they hear that you followed their advice then they are much more likely to help you in the future. Beyond advice and mentorship, this relationship could open doors that would have taken years for you to open without their help (introductions, marketing, a mention in a tweet, etc.)
You must send an update on your progress
3 Notes About Email
- A phone call is better because it leaves the door open for further discussion but if a phone call is not possible, then e-mail will suffice
- If you don’t have a signature in your e-mails, write one (Name and contact info at least)
- Keep the single line format above. Busy people prefer this format because it is easy to read
The secret final step: GO DO IT!!!
There you go. If you have any questions, post them in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them.