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Me & Susan Cain: Far From Where I Started…

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“You gain trust by asking not what people can do for you…but what you can do for others.” ~Keith Ferrazzi

In May, Megan asked me to be a part of Project ABC. I was deeply honored and I quickly accepted.

My audience business, Speak for the Meek is about working with introverts to improve their communication skills such as public speaking and having deep one-on-one conversations.

In June, I submitted my first post for Project ABC detailing my journey as a former meek speaker to wanting to help empower others. I shared with you the story of how as a college student I struggled with the decision to part with $600 to be a part of Mirasee’s Audience Business Masterclass and how my decision to enroll is possibly one of the best decisions of my life.

One of the lessons that Danny teaches us and one I have known all my life is that to be successful you have to build genuine relationships. Guest posts, joint-ventures, guest webinars – they all come from having a genuine relationship.

Today I want to share with you the most important lesson I’ve learned about connecting with people you have never met.

A Week after submitting my First Update

Shortly after I submitted my first update to Megan, I started emailing my list of heroes – people who I admired and people who were seen as “superstars” in the introversion or communication niche. I created this list back in March as one of the homework assignments to identify successful people in our niche.

At the top of my list was Susan Cain, author of the best-seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Susan is my hero and someone I always aspire to be: a role model for others, a charismatic speaker, a best-selling writer, and an overall amazing person.

This is where most people will think, if I could get Susan Cain to help me, my blog would take off instantly. But that’s where I would have been wrong. “Can you help me” is probably the most common thought anyone has when they think about connecting with someone powerful or higher up.

Like Susan, your niche’s celebrities get requests for help all the time; just ask Danny. While Susan and Danny would like to help everyone, there is not enough time for them to feasibly do so. As a result, these emails and requests go unnoticed.

Instead of asking Susan what she could do for me, I asked what could I do for Susan.

I read a newspaper article earlier that month that mentioned that Susan was working on a public speaking course for introverts. I have years of experience and multiple state and national championships. I love Susan as person, I love her message, and I love public speaking. It was a perfect match.

My email headline was: “From one introvert to another: How can I help you?”

In my email I mentioned my experience with public speaking  and that I would love the opportunity to work for Susan.

The kicker?

I would do it for free – this was how committed I was to Susan’s success because at the end of the day, my mission is to help empower others: the money isn’t my primary driver.

I received a reply only five-minutes later! Sadly it was only an auto-reply.

“Dear Reader, Thank you so much for your letter – and I’m so sorry that I can’t respond personally! I wish that I could answer every note, question, and request that comes my way…”

I read the email and told myself how proud I was of myself for sending that email in the first place.

A Week Later

A week later, I received another email from Susan, this time it was personal!

“Dear Davis…I’m traveling home from Tokyo now but will be in touch as soon as possible… I am inspired by your story and I know others will be, too. Thank you for taking the time to write.”

I couldn’t believe it. One of my heroes taking the time to email me.

The following week, Susan and I spent 2 hours on Skype talking about our interests and all the things we had in common. I mentioned Speak for the Meek once, but other than that the conversation was about helping Susan.

Two Weeks Later

After our lovely Skype call, Susan wanted to meet me in person so she  flew me up to New York to spend the weekend with her and Paul, her business partner and another amazing individual. We spent an entire day getting to know each other and brainstorming ideas we had for starting a Quiet Revolution.

Susan and Paul treated me like they treated each other, as old friends. From that weekend, our long-term project and start-up was born. We would help empower introverts all over the world.

My Results?

Susan and Paul have been amazing to me: adding me to their start-up team, connecting me with amazing people like Pam Slim, and even giving me a stipend for my work over the summer; the best part is I never asked for anything in return.

And on my end, I honored my promise and spent about 40 hours each week following the meeting until I was back at Yale crafting a public speaking course: creating a course outline, lesson plans, and transcripts for each lesson. It was tiring work, but I loved every minute of it. The course is currently in production and I am working on a second communication course.

My desire to help Susan was genuine. I carry this desire when I am reaching out to other superstars in my niche: I think about how I can be useful to the people I want to connect with and ways I can contribute to their community.

My approach has landed me numerous guest posts, but more importantly the friendship of the people behind the blogs I write for. I’ve been lucky to be able to connect with many of my heroes including Scott Dinsmore, Barry Davenport, Jenny BlakeVincent Nguyen, and Keith Ferrazzi.

Where am I headed next?

Since teaming up with Susan, I moved my launch date forward to Spring of 2014: but I am not complaining.

My plans moving forward are to

  • Continue my work with Susan
  • Write more guest posts (at least one a week)
  • Hold weekly workshops at Yale about communication skills
  • Find a Mastermind group for myself
  • Gain at least 1000 subscribers on my blog before my Spring Launch date.

Now that you know more about me, I’d like to know about you.

What experiences have you had with reaching out to people you admire? What approaches have been successful? What has not?

 

About Davis Nguyen

Davis Nguyen (@IamDavisNguyen) is an introvert on a year-long journey connecting with 52 role models he has never met and learning how to form deep, meaningful relationship with strangers. Ever wanted to learn how to connect with the authorities in your niche? Follow him at DavisNguyen.com.

39 comments

  1. Davis..my apologies..I thought I was replying to Danny’s request for how much I enjoy his new site..but there was so much insight in you’re article too because I work with business owners who fear the 60 second presentation..but your approach was uplifting.

  2. Just read through a website offer that talked of FREE downloads at the end of the article..He said he was different..that he wasn’t into long diatribes with a sting in the tail..guess what..pages of bullshit with a FREE download at the end..SO LONG AS YOU PURCHASED A PRODUCT..now I know this is like back end sales,, but he said he was different..if he’d have done as you’ve done and given FREE content when you said it was FREE he’d have had my subscription..
    Always look forward to your work

  3. I’ve published my first booklet 26th of May. Getting ready for this I bought, studied and used the Steve Scott’s book on how to increase Kindle sales.
    Since that time I do what I can to get connected with him. I comment on every of his blog post. I review his books. I’m on his FB group. I befriended him on Lift. I retwitt his twitts. I share his promos with my friends.
    I don’t know what more can I do for him, but definitely we have some working relationship. I’m not a stranger for him.
    When the oppurtunity will arise, I will be ready.

  4. Davis , What a great post. I love the way you networked with the people. In the current Success magazine they talked aout the power of networking and I think you could have done a great article for them. Hope to see more of your work. Thanks again for the insight

  5. Hey Davis,

    Great story about giving Whole Heartedly. I can relate to your mission as an introvert on the path to being a better communicator and leader to boot too so…Looking forward to reading your material.

  6. Davis, What an enlightening post.
    I really appreciate and am grateful for you and your transparency. Even though I have been on the Internet for many years, I have been so pleased to find Danny Inny, Firepole Marketing, and wonderful people like you. All of you are contributing a needed and important service.

    Many, many, many thanks!

  7. I’ve given up a bit early on contacting some of the experts I look up to. I guess there are a lot of gate keepers that weed through that discourage further contact. Great idea though. What was your first public speaking event that you did and how did you get the gig?

    1. I’ve encountered many gatekeepers too. I find that by treating them as I treat the experts, I am able to get through. Gatekeepers are people too.

      My first public speaking I volunteered for a competition. If you mean in a non-competition setting, I also volunteered to speak for free. I reached out to a local middle school to be their commencement speaker.

  8. Well, I spent 20 minutes writing you a long comment earlier and it wouldn’t post, but basically it said that I’m glad you’ve found this niche and you’re doing what you’re doing.

    I used to be quite shy and had to be taught to be more confident, outgoing, and brave.

    It comes to me with ease now. I was shocked this summer, when attending BlogHer ’13 in Chicago, to find that many of the bloggers I met were so introverted that they didn’t even know how to approach someone and exchange business cards. They complimented me on my ability to communicate, network, and my confidence and I was surprised.

    After going to several sessions there, I realized that I could probably do just as good at presenting as their session presenters. I pitched the idea to my new blogging friends that if I came next year, I would suggest a session just after the welcome on how to meet people with confidence and communicate and network with them. All of my new friends said that would be the first session they would pick!

    If I can be taught these principles, others can as well.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Cindy!

      Thank is an incredible story!

      You definitely know how to make a name for yourself. And yes I agree, communication skills can be taught and you are hitting a spot that will get you to creating value in the lives of others.

      Good luck!

      – Davis

  9. Hello Davis,

    Yes indeed, a very inspiring story! As an ABM student, working very slowly on top of 2 jobs, your success helps me go through the whole process and motivates me a lot. So I really thank you to share it with us, and wish you good luck with your studies and other great opportunities coming up your way -I’m pretty sure -))

  10. Davis, thanks for sharing your experience with Susan. Awesome!

    I admit being an online introvert, so reading a post like yours is inspiring and educating. My attempts to reach out to my heroes haven’t been not much yet, but I’m determined to keep expanding my comfort zone by emailing and commenting to their posts/blogs whenever possible. And actually I’m enjoying doing that in general. I think that’s important.

  11. Inspiring example. It’s made me take another look at a similar opportunity that I recently passed on because I couldn’t figure out how to afford doing it for free. Maybe I should just go for it and assume something will come of it that makes it affordable. Right now it feels like a huge leap over a dark abyss with no net.

    Did you feel like that or was money not an issue for you going in?

    1. Hey Michelle,

      I agree that stepping into the dark abyss is often scary. But I like to think what is the wrong that could happen? I learn something new? That seems pretty good to me.

      I am a college student, so I don’t have that much money. I figured it if didn’t work out I could always stop. So I took small steps.

      What are you considering Michelle?

      1. Creating a website in my niche for a specific project that aligns with my greater mission, and maintaining it for an audience in which I’m already a member. I have access to all the other members interested in the project through a member forum, FB page and directory. I’m a little concerned this effort would raise my visibility more as a web designer/mechanic than as an artist at a time when I’m really specifically trying to transition from web designer to artist. Therein lies the rub…that and I’d be doing it for free.

  12. I love this post! There’s a deep honesty and integrity here. And you go to the core of the approach Danny & Co. are teaching: serve your community & be authentic FIRST, for so many reasons.

  13. What a great post Davis!

    We have heard about approaching from a place of service, but your post clearly illustrates what can happen AFTER your offer.

    Your story is an inspiration – inspiring because you took a step of faith and reached out to a hero, inspiring because that hero reached back and really inspiring by the help and service you will be providing through your collaborative project.

    I believe in approaching from a place of service because even though you may never see it, you may be providing that small nudge of encouragement that someone may be needing at a moment of discouragement and help to keep them on their mission. And any service from the heart helps bring more good (or great!) into the world.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Not to mention all the failures (or Susans who didn’t reply back). We don’t talk about those much.

      Taking a step of faith is the first step. I believe that service as you mentioned is the key. 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  14. Davis,
    Great post. thanks for writing it. Your story proves that there are many ways of reaching out to folks we admire and making connections. Each should respond to our own personality. Unfortunately I am more a pit bull.
    My background is as an architect, but over the past seven years I have been making a significant transformation/expansion of the role into one also where I teach early childhood educators and I design outdoor playscapes as well as create and renovate buildings. It’s been quite an adventure. In that time I have gone from being on the periphery in this realm, known by almost no one to a leader in the field.
    I have been able to make this change because I put myself out there in a vulnerable place and share my passion and experience while eagerly drinking in and listening to others in the field. The pit bull part comes because I eagerly seek out opportunities and ask to be a part of things, to create to help lead, to present. Sometimes surprisingly it works almost magically and folks like Susan are more than happy to let me play a leadership role.
    A few months ago this led to my holding a North American conference on Children Learning from Nature. Oh my goodness it was a lot of hard work. Unfortunately instead of being able to cover my time (All profits go to a non-profit that I created: The Childplay Institute) I had to pull $6,000 out of my pocket to pay the bills (Still paying off some of it). But the outcome was that folks learned an amazing amount and had a terrific time, with 35% saying it was the best conference they had ever attended (Our participants were mostly industry veterans so this meant a great deal to me), and the other 65% saying it was great. So the learning curve continues, but we are already scheduled for next year’s conference which I am confident will triple in size, and crazy as I am, I am adding a second Training Institute on a related topic: Designing Spaces for Children.
    What a ride isn’t it? It can be so exhausting and emotionally draining at times, but I see the place where I want to get to and will do whatever I can to get there.
    Good luck on your continuing endeavors.
    paul

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story Paul.

      It is incredible the journey you went through. I agree we each have our own personalities, but as you demonstrated the key is always generosity.

      Good luck in your journey, but I can see you are making bounds each day.

  15. Hi Davis. Like you, I was worried about spending more money on an online course when I joined Danny’s Audience Business Masterclass. I must say, “Masterclass” is not an exaggerated descriptor of this course. Like you, I began identifying the experts in my niche and reaching out to them. I offered to write guest posts for a well-known author on a well-known website and have done that three times now. I started before I even had my main website finished, but now it is up and I link back to it. I have also identified other “expert” sites and offered my services. I’ve been accepted there as well. I don’t know that I would have thought of these things if it had not been for ABM. Congratulations on your journey, Davis!

  16. Thank you so much for this post Davis.

    As I was reading, it’s as if I felt your hands reaching form the screen to give me a shake and remind me why I’m starting a business in the first place.

    I’m ashamed to admit, that when I look at what others are doing in my industry, I feel that they aren’t providing real value and my first reaction is to say to myself, “I need to hurry up and get my products out there before these other guys figure it out!”

    But I only have to take about one step back before I can see that I’m looking at things the wrong way.

    At the end of the day, when I stop and think about it, I’m driven to build a business because I have a deep desire to help. My heart tapped me on the shoulder as I was reading your post and said, “Hey! Jason! Pay attention!”

    You reminded me that my first reaction should be to help, and the rest will take care of itself.

    1. That is awesome Jason. I believe you are totally on the right track with your mindset to help others. Like you I believe the rest (money, fame, etc.) will come next.

      Thank you so much for your kind words Jason.

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