In my online business journey, I've had many mentors. Some taught me lessons through their books and courses. Some I watched and learned what not to do. And some taught me new ways of thinking and doing business when I've been lucky enough to meet and talk with them one-on-one.
Today, I want to share seven incredible life lessons I've learned from someone I'm proud to call him a friend, colleague, and mentor — Todd Herman.
Todd Herman is a high performance coach who lists Fortune 100 entrepreneurs, billionaires, Olympic athletes, and professional athletic teams among his clients. His flagship course, the 90 Day Year, is responsible for some huge shifts in my business and life.
I've interviewed him twice (access the interviews here and here), and worked with him in many capacities over the past few years. Here are just a few of the powerful lessons he's taught me. I've explained what I've learned and how I've applied it, and then issued a challenge to you so you can benefit from his wisdom NOW.
Lesson 1: Plan Tomorrow Today.
One of the biggest shifts you need to make to be at the top of your game is to move yourself from being reactive to being proactive. That means thinking ahead to what you want to accomplish, and then creating routines, habits and schedules to support those goals.
Todd reminded me of the importance of thinking — and planning — ahead, instead of just responding to what the day brings.
Without this practice, I can easily get pulled in a hundred different directions each day as I respond to students, JV partners, followers, and anyone else who emails me. I have to claim my schedule and protect it, and the best way to do that is by planning ahead and knowing what I want to accomplish before the day begins.
Your Challenge: Spend 15 minutes at the end of each day, reviewing what went well and what you've accomplished. Then write down the three most important tasks for the following day. This will let you get a running start on your day instead of wasting time “figuring out” what you want to do.
Lesson 2: Add Value First.
One of the stories that Todd told me during my interview that really stuck with me was about artists during Michelangelo's day. When aspiring artists during the Renaissance wanted to learn to perfect their art, they'd apprentice themselves to other, more experienced artists. They would perform menial tasks while watching over the master artist's shoulder, willing to work for free to learn directly from their mentor.
So many people want to skip this apprentice phase and move directly to mastery… but it's critical to learn from more experienced people when you are starting out. And when you reach out to them, be willing to offer your help before they help you. Too many people approach influencers and potential mentors with their hands out, asking before giving.
In fact, Todd says only twice has someone come to him and said, “Hey, I want to learn from you and I'm willing to work for free just to be around you and see how you think.” Instead, people ASK for something. And then they wonder why they get turned down!
This concept of providing value first was one of my guiding principles when I was just starting out online. When I approached influencers, I would determine how I could help them before I would ever ask them to help me.
People in my Virtual Summit Mastery and Connect With Your Heroes premium courses have heard me say over and over, “Add value first!”
Todd says that you might think you don't have anything of value to offer the influencer, but that's not true. You've got time, positive energy, passion, and your solution-oriented mind. When he started approaching mentors in this manner, “It streamlined and opened up tons of doors” he says.
When I was new to the online business world, I created a list of influencers I wanted to connect with (I still keep such a list!). I followed these people on social media, read their blogs, and subscribed to their email lists. By tracking what they were doing, I could see where there might be opportunities for me to provide value.
This process led to my very first blog interview — with Pat Flynn! — when I read that he was looking for interview opportunities to publicize his first book. (You can access that interview here: Interview with Pat Flynn: How to Let Go, Create Passive Income and Get Started Online.)
Your Challenge: Review your “hot list” of influencers in your industry that you'd like to establish a relationship with. Go through and jot down SPECIFIC value you can offer them (“I can write a book review for Influencer A.” or “I can introduce Influencer B to my accountant because she mentioned on her podcast that she's looking for one.”)
Lesson 3: Theme Your Days.
The variety of tasks and projects we have to tackle as entrepreneurs or business owners can make our days seem really disjointed, and make it seem like we're always busy but not making any progress.
Todd's solution: Theme your days. Pick a topic for each day and do most (if not all) of that activity on the day devoted to it.
For instance, Mondays might be for coaching appointments, Tuesdays could be reserved for writing, Wednesdays would be administrative work, Thursdays might be for marketing, and so on.
“We don't master skills by trying to do 10 things at once,” he says. Instead, focus on the top activities. Our brain is built for focus. If we don't choose our focus, we'll go to what's easiest – like spending the day answering email, checking social media, etc.
When we focus, we train our brains to move into creative problem-solving mode and we save time because we're not jumping from topic to topic. When I theme my days in this way, I save so much time and work much more effectively. It lets me get “in the zone” where everything seems to come easily. That's something you can't do if you're moving from email to videos to coaching.
I'll be honest — the last few months have been super-busy, and I've moved away from this theme approach. I am committing to returning to it for 2017! I'll be creating more video content in particular, both live-streaming and with a professional video team, and having days dedicated to content creation will be necessary.
Your Challenge: Write down themes for your days. (Examples: Content creation, lead generation, admin/operational, product creation, relationship building, marketing, coaching calls, etc.) For the next week, try scheduling related activities ONLY for the specific days. (You may need to adjust as you go along but you have to start somewhere!)
Lesson 4: Don't Set Goals Too Far Ahead.
Todd has done a ton of research in goal-setting, performance, and brain function, He says that while our brains are really good for imagining out five years or so, 90 days is about how far out the mind can conceive with any specifics. That's why he works with his clients to set goals no further than 90 days at a time. (It's no coincidence his program is the 90 Day Year!)
The 90-day planning sessions also work because you know 90 days isn't too far in the future, and you better start acting soon! You can't delay and still achieve the goals you've chosen.
I've adopted this manner of planning, and it's made a big difference because I focus on what's right in front of me, and I start acting immediately. I still like to lay out some ideas for the year as a whole, but I don't plan it out in much detail beyond a quarter at a time.
In fact, my team and I are just in the process of planning our first three months of 2017 in detail! This is a big change for me from when I used to either not plan at all, or try to plan WAY too far in advance. Then I'd get frustrated when I was scrambling, or when things didn't go according to plan.
It works much better to look out into the future just far enough to make concrete plans, but not too far!
Your challenge: Block out an hour in your calendar, sit down with your planner, and brainstorm Q1 of 2017.
Lesson 5: There's No Time Like the Present.
If you've followed me for a while, you know that I'm a big believer in imperfect action.
I haven't always been that way! Ask my team — I'm a BIG perfectionist, and this used to get in the way of me committing to one course of action and actually making progress.
I'm still a perfectionist, but after working with Todd for a while, I realized that there's no “right” time to do anything. The people around you who are making massive progress are just like you, with one difference: They're acting before they're ready. They know that the best way to move forward is to just act, and then treat your results as feedback.
If you see what happens just as feedback rather than “failure,” you can take what happens and use it to move yourself forward. And you can keep moving forward until you achieve your goals.
Your Challenge: What goal, project, or activity have you been delaying because you feel like it's not the “perfect” time? (There might be more than one!) Commit to taking ONE specific action to make that goal a reality.
Lesson 6: Welcome New Challenges
Newer business owners and entrepreneurs sometimes think that once we reach a certain point, we won't have challenges or problems anymore.
In fact, Todd says these new problems and obstacles are signs of our growth. “In anything we try to do, there's always going to be a setback. That's the point of change,” he says. So instead of viewing these new challenges as signs you're not doing things “right,” take them as signs you're growing and making progress. “This idea of a comfort zone is a complete myth,” he says.
Reframing my challenges this way has helped me with my mindset a ton.
I've been in rapid growth mode the past few years, and as a result, I often feel like I'm outside my comfort zone. I could let this make me uneasy and even discouraged.
But now I know it's a sign of business growth, and something every business owner will go through as they reach new levels. For instance, as I move from mid-six figures to seven figures, I'm working with a team. I now spend a lot more time on planning, forecasting, and management — tasks I haven't mastered… YET. It's new, and it's challenging, and that's good because it's a sign of my growth.
Your Challenge: Review some area of your life where you've made a lot of progress. It could be fitness, relationships, business… Think about the new obstacles you faced as you grew to new levels of mastery. Do you see any area of your life now where you're facing what seems like a problem? Is it a sign that you're growing?
Lesson 7: Go Deep on Your Why
Another way to successfully meet challenges is to know WHY you are building your business (or getting in shape, or saving money, or whatever).
Todd recommends asking yourself “Why” not just once, but multiple times to get at your underlying reasons.
“From my experience, after answering about 17 ‘why's' or 24 ‘why's,' people hit the motherlode. They're digging deep,” he explains. “Just like digging a well,l as you get deeper and deeper all of the sudden you get to the gusher and all of this motivation.”
For myself, my business completely shifted after the personal tragedy of losing my younger brother very unexpectedly. I was determined that I would create the lifestyle business I dreamed of, not just for myself, but for him. As soon as I had a strong enough motivation, I knew that NOTHING would stand in my way.
Your Challenge: Go through the “Why” exercise to determine your motivation for any of your big life goals. Ask yourself over and over again why you want to achieve that goal, what it will bring you, how it will change your life. Keep going deeper and deeper until you hit at the core of what motivates you (hint: Todd says it often has to do with learning, new experiences, excitement and adventure, or growth).
To summarize, the seven things I've learned from Todd Herman:
- Plan tomorrow today.
- Add value first.
- Theme your days.
- Don't look too far ahead.
- There's no time like the present.
- Welcome new challenges.
- Go deep on your “why.”