Learning from My Mentors

My favorite question to ask my teachers and mentors is “who are your teachers and mentors?"

I thought I’d introduce you to one of my teachers.

I first met him when he was 24 years old and possessed an incredible amount of knowledge, wisdom, and experience — far surpassing his biological age.

He dropped out of college at 19 years old and accomplished more before age 24 than most do in a lifetime.

He is the most voracious reader I know (far surpassing me by orders of magnitude) — reading everything from modern to classic texts going back thousands of years.

I’ve since read nearly everything he has ever written. We’ve met in person on a few occasions and had a phone call or two over the years.

I study everything he writes, says, or does.

His book The Obstacle is the Way has a cult-like following amongst professional athletes and coaches in the (American) National Football League (NFL).

It was also the book that helped me get through the adversity of my divorce four years ago.

His name is Ryan Holiday.

I finished his latest book a few minutes ago, and I think it’s a book you should know about and possibly read.

It's called Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts.

In today’s instant gratification business world, it’s refreshing to see someone (possibly the only one) discussing how to make evergreen work that lasts for decades.

Ryan’s business philosophy aligns very closely with my own.

I’ve also built my career on the “long game” — investing for the long haul far beyond most people’s tolerance for delayed gratification.

While both Ryan and I have arrived at these conclusions independently, he has done so more consciously than I have.

He has created a framework for how to build a lasting, enduring career in any creative field.

Some of the things he suggests, I’ve already done with great results.

Many other suggestions I haven’t, but they are now on my to-do list.

While his background is in books and music, his ideas apply well to software, apps, and product companies too.

Here are my three favorite quotes from Perennial Seller:

1) In regards to entering a market and new product entry and whether it will succeed or not:

“...we should ask, 'Who is this for?' We must also ask, 'What does this do?' A critical test of any product: Does it have a purpose? Does it add value to the world? How will it improve the lives of the people who buy it?"

These deceptively simplistic questions can’t be answered by 80% of those seeking venture capital. These are fundamental questions to ask and answer for any new product entry strategy.

When you think about your product, forget its features and technical capabilities. Think more in terms of specific people and their specific problems.

For example, my book Case Interview Secrets is for people that apply for strategy consulting jobs at one of three companies — McKinsey, Bain, or BCG [This is the “Who”].

These people face the problem of passing the case interview [this is the “Problem” that the “Who” possess] — an interview format not used by other industries and that most have never encountered before.

My book Case Interview Secrets provides a proven process for solving this problem that has worked for me personally and thousands of other people.

2) On the topic of becoming a multi-decade presence and personal brand in your field...

"Becoming a perennial seller requires more than just releasing a project into the world. It requires the development of a career. It means building a fan base both before and after a project, and it means thinking differently than most people out there selling something.”

I totally agree.

If you want a quick win, you need customers. A customer will buy the product you are selling today.

If you want an everlasting career, you need fans. Fans will buy all of the products you ever create and/or constantly introduce the people in their networks to you and your work.

The path to getting a customer versus a lifelong fan differs significantly.

Ryan concisely outlines the timeless approach in a useful framework that too few people use.

3) On developing a fan base as a long-term asset...

"The most valuable success a writer can have—a faithful following, a reliable group of readers who looked forward to every new book and bought it, who trusted me, and whose trust I must not disappoint."

The same principle can be (but often isn’t) applied to product industries.

Again, there’s a difference between customers and fans.

Dell has customers. Apple has fans.

Need I say more?

At Apple, Steve Jobs set out to create fans for life. It was intentional.

When I started CaseInterview.com, I did so to create fans and relationships for life. That too was intentional.

That path to creating lifelong fans versus customers differs quite dramatically.

It’s important to be aware of the differences. You’ll come across them repeatedly in your career.

Even if you never plan to be an entrepreneur or run a business, the concept of the lifelong fan still applies.

You can treat your boss and co-workers as merely temporary colleagues, or you can deliberately treat them in a way that leads them to become lifelong fans of your career success.

I have old bosses and former co-workers from 15 years ago that would give me a job or recommend me for a job if I ever needed one.

There are people in my professional network that I’ve been helping and who’ve been helping me for over a decade.

This kind of thinking applies to more people than realize it.

It’s an approach you should definitely be aware of, should consider for your career, and that some should implement.

You can click here to learn more about Ryan Holiday’s book, Perennial Seller.

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