If you’re a podcast listener, you probably already know Lewis Howes. He is the host of The School of Greatness and the author of the New York Times best-selling book of the same name. You may also remember him as the co-founder of LinkedInfluence. But before growing multiple online courses and becoming one of President Obama’s top 100 entrepreneurs in the country in 2013, Lewis Howes was a heart-broken dreamer living on his sister’s couch.
Howes left college early to pursue a professional arena football career with no plan B. So, when he suffered a career-ending injury two games in, he was devastated. He found himself without a home or a plan, but not without hope.
How did he go from the couch to the White House and the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list? It was an eight-year journey with many ups and downs, but here are four keys to success that entrepreneurs can learn by following in the athlete’s footsteps.
1. Cultivate connections.
Howes’s first step when he found himself at rock bottom was to reach out to anyone he could, starting with the president of his alma mater. He asked anyone he could about their success, studied their lives and asked for their advice. As he learned new insights and connected with more people, he began to build a profile for himself on the new professional network at the time, LinkedIn. The platform helped him make more connections, so he spent hours learning how to optimize and leverage his profile. As his LinkedIn profile improved, so did his ability to help others. Being a connector built trust and credibility and provided leverage. He explained that he didn’t really know what he was doing in business, he just knew he had a way to help people.
“Early on I didn’t have the skills, or an audience, but I was able to connect people to someone I knew that could help them," Howes says. "Being the connector is a really powerful thing.”
2. Create a clear vision.
Many can start a course for what they’ve learned, like Howes did with LinkedIn, but few experience such explosive growth. When I asked him about the key to his early success, he said it was his passion to get to the next step in his journey.
“I was doing whatever it took to make a dollar," Howes says.
It’s easy for beginner entrepreneurs to say, "I want to make a lot of money," but Howes says that’s not enough. You need to get specific so that you can start to reverse engineer exactly what it is that you want. First Howes set a clear goal: Make $1,000 a month. Next, he focused on getting off his sister’s couch and into his own apartment. He stuck with his vision until his goals grew to making $5,000 a month, $10,000 a month, etc. This commitment helped him get through the tough times all entrepreneurs face.
“I was so committed to my vision, it didn’t matter if I was failing at the time," he says. "I was committed to making a better life for myself, to add value to more people.”
3. Communicate your vision liberally.
Another key to Howes’s success was his tenacity in sharing his vision.
“A lot of people don’t voice what they want," he says. "I say, 'here’s my vision, here’s what I want, and I’m telling everyone.' It allows other people to help support me in that vision.”
He encourages entrepreneurs to share goals with everyone, since you never know who may have a connection to help you. When he wanted to find a mentor, he told everyone who and what he was looking for. He ended up finding one of his mentors through an ex-girlfriend. This strategy also landed him his coveted assistant, er, life manager, who does all of his shopping, cooking, cleaning and administrative tasks. He told everyone he met that he was on the hunt for an assistant, and exactly what he was looking for, eventually finding her through his chiropractor.
4. Care for your audience.
Howes started his now-empire when multiple friends and acquaintances needed help understanding LinkedIn. He heard that there was a need, learned the skills necessary and charged for teaching those skills, first as a consultant and then through an online course. He then repeated this process again and again, continually asking his community, "What are you struggling with most right now? What do you want to do next?"
Howes sold his half of his online course business to his partner, Stephen Malarky, and decided it was time to build something bigger. As he reached out to mentors and influencers for his own personal guidance, he realized he was receiving information other people would want to know.
“I was connecting with people one-on-one, interviewing some of the brightest minds," Howes says. "Some of my friends had podcasts and I thought, if they can do it, I can do it, and I decided to create the podcast I’d want to listen to.”
Now, with his podcast and his book, Howes is open about his audacious goal to serve 100 million people in his lifetime. With a mission like that, it’s no wonder he has millions of listeners who rally to support him. But Howes doesn’t give his audience that opportunity often.
“Don’t ask your audience for anything in return," he says. "Once in seven years I will ask ‘hey, can you promote my book?’ But every other time it’s, ‘how can I support you?’"
His generosity has obviously paid off, because his audience rallied behind his book, landing him at number three on the New York Times Best Sellers list. He says all entrepreneurs can do the same thing, if they will genuinely listen to people’s problems, find a solution and then teach that solution. Focus on giving as much as you can to the maximum amount of people, and you will find success. “If they know they can count on you, eventually you’ll be able to monetize that.”
Watch more videos from "The Pursuit" on this YouTube channel.
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