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Episode 26: "The Experiment" with R. Michael Anderson

By Arel Moodie

Say you’ve been looking for a mentor, and you’ve found one.  She is an exemplar in the field of work you have been studying, and you admire everything about her from her tact professionalism to her uncanny ability to summon an answer for almost any problem.

How to send her the perfect email?  Do you agonize for an hour or so on how to word your approach?  Some people may get stuck and never send out that email and never reach out.  They don’t even attempt.  But Executive Joy founder R. Michael Anderson recommends looking at this “attempt” a different way.  Call it an experiment.

Quick Rundown:
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Show Notes:

Welcome to your experiment.  From here on out, these attempts aren’t “attempts.”  They’re experiments.  You’re going to test out an approach to see how well it works out in getting a mentor.  And if it doesn’t work out, you now know what doesn’t work.  And if it works, great!

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There’s a certain power of language in programming our minds for success.  I personally tell myself that I don’t have any problems—what I have instead are challenges.  Challenges can be and are designed to be bested.  Problems?  Maybe not.  But I beat challenges.

Likewise, don’t tell yourself that you’re attempting to achieve a goal.   Tell yourself that it’s an experiment you’re conducting.  Rather than groping around blindly in the dark, you frame your approach to the situation as one coming from a place of knowledge and inquiry.

This idea of experimentation doesn’t need to be limited to just finding a mentor—it can be applied to all walks and relationships of life!

Michael does go further into finding a mentor, and on a grander scale, caring for people.  Here are some nuggets from our discussion:

Truly helping people out: an experiment
A college student looking for research opportunities may not get a reply from a professor.  Disgruntled, he may reason that "professors are busy people" and "my email probably got lost among the hundreds of emails he receives a day."
So he gives up, and chalks it up to a numbers game.  So he takes a shotgun to his search for a mentor, and sends his email request to everyone.  If I send the same email asking all the other professors in the department for help, ONE of them has to respond, right?
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Michael recommends keeping the shotgun approach out of finding your mentor.  Instead of hoping for a favorable response out of the three thousand emails you sent, do this instead.
Pick ten mentors who suit you.  Then do research on them, and how you can really help them.  Finally, send the email extolling their work, asking for their influence and advice, and then telling them how specifically you can help them.
Try this exact experiment out the next time you seek a new business contact, and see how it works for you.  In this way, you can truly help someone out, and they will reciprocate by advising or helping you out in return.
Don't be this guy:
Prospective Intern: "I've read all about your work and I can certainly help you with your lab research!"
Professor: "What scientific methods are you familiar with? How specifically can you help me?"
Prospective Intern: "Lab research!"
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Do your homework on your potential mentor and how you can help him, and you'll find a better response rate.  You don't even need to be of direct help--you can even offer important connections between people:
“Hey, I know this guy in your engineering field, and I think this would be a great connection between you and him.  Can you verify if this would be a good connection?”
Try this experiment out-finding the value that you can give to people, and see if it increases your business, career, and other relationships!  That said, it can also help your personal relationships...
On the personal side:
We all have our ups and downs in life, and if you find yourself at a downturn, it's not the time to beat yourself up about it.  One tried and true experiment Michael recommends is affirming to yourself that “I am, you are, we all are, people who go for it in our lives.  Sometimes we fail, and ups and downs are always going to happen.” 
When he presents this experiment to executives, he finds them nodding their heads in silent agreement.  Everyone goes through tough times as they blaze their path to success.  Keep in mind and accept that these are natural bumps along the road.
But when you've accepted that you've hit a bit of a rut, then the next question is what are the steps to get out of it?  Michael presents the following experiment:
1. Live healthy-Exercise, cut out binge consumption, and abstain from drugs and alcohol.
2. Time to reach out-Reach out to a close friend or family member and ask them to just talk.  Now may be a time to just discuss your take on the situation.  Building this rapport with a close one can be important to your self-esteem, even more so than specific actions and steps prescribed for your particular situation:  
"When someone's drowning, it's not the time for swimming lessons."
Thanks to Michael for coming onto the show!  You can find him at The Executive JOY Institute or on Twitter, or on Facebook.
Stay tuned and stay awesome!
Questions and comments can be directed via email to [email protected]
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