Source: One of my recent talks, which only occurred as a result of that email
I wanted to learn from the best, and I wanted to learn quickly. Through my talks in schools and universities, I also wanted to equip future generations with the tools and tactics they needed to cope with modern life.
I’d just finished Tim Ferriss’s book Tribe of Mentors and it suddenly hit me. I needed a tribe of my own. With that, I set out to contact the most successful people I could. I thought it best to start in the corporate world, so I reached out to the most successful CEOs in my country.
Getting their email address was more difficult than I thought, so I decided to guess based on their corresponding company websites, using variations of common email structures (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).
Now I had to figure out what to write. I decided to write from the heart, and with a subject line called ‘taking a punt,’ the email went like this:
Dear Xx Xxxxxxxx,
My name is Brian Pennie and I am a PhD student studying the neuroscience of mindfulness in Trinity College Dublin. My journey has been far from conventional however. On October 8th 2013, I experienced my first day clean after 15 years of chronic heroin addiction. I am not quite sure why or how, but on that day I gained a completely new perspective on life.
During the last four years I have been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people who have helped me to successfully navigate my new life. These chance occurrences have had a huge impact on my journey towards becoming a PhD student in Trinity College, published academic writer, lecturer in UCD, personal development coach, and a guest speaker for mental health awareness in schools and colleges around the country.
As a ridiculously enthusiastic and passionate learner, I have decided to take a punt and reach out to Ireland’s most successful people. Although I have learned a great deal thus far, I would love to gather further information from Ireland’s best. My goal is to learn tools and tactics to enhance my own personal development, and to pass them on to future generations through my scheduled talks.
I would be privileged if you could spare some time (email, Skype, or maybe even a coffee) to share your insights on how to be successful in this complex world.
The response rate was a staggering 81.2%, and I got interviews with everyone who responded. Following advice from one of my interviewees, I asked each person to introduce me to another successful individual in their circle. That’s when the momentum really flew.
Why Was the Email So Successful?
1. I was authentic
I was completely transparent and stayed true to myself. I genuinely am a “ridiculously enthusiastic and passionate learner,” so that’s what I said.
What’s more, of the 18.8% that didn’t respond, not only is that OK, it’s a good thing. Maybe they didn’t get the email. Maybe they did. Either way, if they saw it and didn’t like what they saw, that’s fantastic too. It saved everyone wasting their time.
“Be true to your wonderfully weird self. You’ll attract what you need, and repel what you don’t.” — My favourite life lesson
2. I was bold
Most people don’t think it’s possible to land interviews with the top CEOs in their country. As a result, they don’t get many random requests, especially from people like me.
As Tim Ferriss states, “The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.” I was the only former heroin addict looking for an interview. I jumped out of the box and had no one to compete with, so that gave me an edge.
“The only limits in your life are the ones you put on yourself, so dream big, and be bold.” — My second favourite life lesson
3. I had a mission
My mission in life is to show people that change is possible, demonstrating actionable steps through a lived experience. Part of this mission is to learn new skills and pass them on to future generations — my original reason for reaching out.
When you have a mission you believe in — one that helps others — it only makes sense that others will want to help you too.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it” ― Buddha
4. I created a sense of intrigue
I’m not sure what they thought after reading my email, but I’m thinking it went something like: “Who the hell is this fella, I wonder what this is all about?”
I didn’t leave out details to create intrigue — I simply didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. But in retrospect, I think it worked to my advantage.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney
5. Everyone loves a story
People love stories, and I had an intriguing one. You might be thinking: “damn, I don’t have a story,” but think again. Everyone has a story. And if you’re looking to contact the most successful people in your country, it’s likely you have a good one.
If you’re struggling with your story, think about what you do and why you do it. Think about the hard lessons you’ve learned and how they’ve shaped the person you are today. Think about your fears and how you can help others to overcome theirs.
People are driven by emotion, and a good story allows them to see the human side of others. This is where true connection lies: in our challenges, our vulnerabilities, our suffering, and our fears.
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ― Philip Pullman
All you need to know
If you want to learn from the best, you need to think big. This means reaching out to people further along the path. You don’t have to be a genius to land interviews with such people, but you do have to do things a little differently.
Email appears to work best, so you’ll need to craft a good one. More importantly, you’ll need to be authentic, bold, and create a sense of intrigue. You’ll also need to tell them your story, preferably one that’s connected to your mission.
This approach led to several extraordinary opportunities for me, including a book deal with a mainstream publisher, a highly successful speaking career, and mentorships with some of the most successful people in my country.
People are nicer than you think, but it’s only by daring to dream that you can give them a chance to show you.
What would you do if you had a second chance at life?
As a chronic heroin addict turned doctor, I designed a program to help people to transform their lives. For FREE access to one of the most powerful tools from this programme – which includes an online course on morning routines – CLICK HERE.