The Forgotten Strategy To Learn Skills Insanely Fast, Build a World-Class Network and Engineer Your Own Job Opening

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On October 20th, 2011 I entered my email address in the sign-up box below one of the posts on this site…

That was the first domino to fall.

A sequence of events followed that I still have a hard time believing…

It didn’t take long to become a HUGE fan of Phil Drolet and this site. I couldn’t get enough. When ever I needed a surge of inspiration I’d come here.

One day I found a message in my inbox that would change everything for me. Phil was looking to put a team together. This was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t pass up.

I shot and edited a video application. I poured everything I had into it and clicked send.

“Mike! Loved the video man. Really enjoyed your answers and I can definitely see a good potential fit.  I’d love to jump on Skype and discuss more. “

 One interview later I found myself on the team. I was floored.

In June of 2012 I began a yearlong apprenticeship with Phil. During this time I learned more practical skills than I had in the previous 3 years in college. I finally began to learn how things worked in the “real world.” The impact of this apprenticeship on my life has been MASSIVE.

I’m now having conversations with people who were “internet famous” to me. People who I thought were way out of my league like Jacob Sokol, Dan Adams, and Eric James.

In June, I flew out to Boulder, Colorado to accept my dream job. I began working with Phil full time as his right hand man.

This apprenticeship allowed me to learn skills rapid-fire, explode my network with quality connections, and engineer my own job opening.

But here’s the thing: I’m not special. You can do this just as I did. This post will show you how step-by-step.

This isn’t a post about theory. This post is designed for you to take action. It’s packed with tactics that you can start implementing today.

Let this be your first domino.

Stop Checking The Boxes

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My hope is for this post to show you that your circumstances aren’t as rigid as you expect.

You can scrap the script that has been written for you.

While everyone else is going in one direction, you can pivot and do something entirely different.

This post will show you one example of how to do that.

The Lost Art of Apprenticeship

For some reason we’ve come to value learning in the classroom above learning in the field.

Surely both have a place in education, but the scales have been tipped too far towards theory.

So many college graduates walk away with a diploma and a few finely tuned skills: filling in bubbles, transcribing lectures, and cramming for exams.

There is a better way.

By becoming an apprentice, you will tip the scales in the other direction. Instead of learning about how things should work, you’ll learn about how things actually work. Instead of forming surface level connections that are so common with typical networking, you’ll be plugged into your mentor’s network as an insider.

I’m not talking about a fluffy internship packed busy work without substance. I’m talking about an arrangement between a founder and apprentice where you are a critical piece to business operations.

You’ll learn skills faster because your put in situations where it’s critical for you to figure it out.

You’ll feel more fulfilled because you’ll know you’re making a massive contribution to something that isn’t all about you.

The internet is reigniting an old way of working, learning, and growing in the form of the Virtual Apprenticeship. New technology removes the geographic constraints creating way more potential mentor/apprenticeship combinations.

This is a HUGE opportunity that so many people are missing out on. The rest of this post will show you how to take advantage.

Eliminating The Entitlement Mindset

I find that so many of my peers focus on what they expect to gain. That they are special and that they deserve the high paying job and the status that comes with it. Not so fast.

I think this mindset is all wrong and Einstein agrees with me:

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This isn’t about pursuing success. It’s about allowing success to ensue as a by-product of value added.

So many people spend their time hoping to hit a home run by staring at the outfield. You have to put your eye on the ball. Focus on how you can be of service and success will follow.

Become okay with working for free. The knowledge you’ll get from the experience is worth so much more than the quick-fix paycheck.

A Market for Mentors: Solopreneurs

Solopreneurs are building businesses all by themselves.

Everyone has a different reason for starting a business but I’m willing to wager most of them were looking for more independence and control in their lives.

Many of them will realize that it’s a hard road and plenty of them could use some help.

I see the solopreneur as an ideal mentor for a few reasons:

  • Fewer Barriers To Entry: Since there is only one shot-caller, there aren’t a bunch of bureaucratic procedures to hold back the apprentice from getting in the door.
  • No Team: Flying solo can be a lonely game, so many solopreneurs would love to have someone else to help them work on their business.
  • More Responsibility: The apprentice can learn more because they can take on projects that larger organizations wouldn’t trust them with.

You have the opportunity to really be the jet pack for someone’s success, but how do you know who that person is?

Who Should I Target?

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Below I’ll show you how you can generate a list of people you’d be excited to work with.

This list will also help you brainstorm ways you can add value this person’s life.

Here’s a spreadsheet you can use to organize your research:

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The Pillar Questions:

The answers to these questions will frame the rest of your research.

1. Areas of Interest: What areas of interests/niches would you like to work within? Choose two. This will help you see opportunities for your potential mentors that wouldn’t be visible if you were only focusing on one industry.

2. Dream Connections: Do you have any dream connections? People you’d love to work with? Add them to the spreadsheet.

4 Search Tactics for Ninja-Like Resourcefulness

Here are a few tactics you can use to build up this list of potential sites/businesses:

1. Google Search: [Top/Best] [Insert Niche Here] [Blogs/Websites/Businesses]

This Google search will reveal articles compiling the “best of”  in a particular niche.   Be sure you use “niche synonyms” if they exist. For example, if I wanted to search for personal development blogs I would also search for personal growth and self improvement.

2. Google Search:[Insert Name of Dream Connection/Industry Expert]

This will reveal the guest posts of a particular dream connection or expert. Sites that they are writing on are usually in a similar niche. This will only work if the name isn’t common. If you’re unlucky enough to have a John Smith dream connection then try [name] [area of interest], ie. John Smith Fly Fishing

3. Google Search/iTunes Search:[Insert Niche Here] Podcasts

Many podcasts have an interview format. This can be a huge source of leads if you look through past episodes and check out the guests’ sites. You can also use the search engine for podcasts a try: http://poodle.fm/

4. Use Technorati.com

Technorati ranks sites based on different categories. If your area of interest falls into one of their categories check it out.

***

I really wanted to challenge the effectiveness of these tactics so I asked my roommate to name a random niche as a test.

He said “Fly Fishing.” Despite the fact that I know NOTHING about fly fishing I was able to find 40 potential leads in just 10 minutes.

This convinces me that you can find a TON of sites related to your passions and interests if you just put in some time and effort.

Once you’ve created your list, limit your options by choosing 3 people who you are most excited to work with.

Now decide how you can add value by answering these questions while referring to your spreadsheet:

  1. What’s an opportunity they are missing out on?
  2. If you helped them take advantage of this opportunity, how would it help them?
  3. What skills do you need to do this?
  4. Do you have the skills now or do you need to learn them?

If your answer to questions 4 was “Yes I have to learn a skill” then be sure to pay attention to this next section.

How To Learn A Skill in 20 Hours

Here’s I’ll share with you 6 steps to rapid skill acquisition. If you want to dive deeper on this subject check out Josh Kauffman’s book The First 20 Hours. I highly recommend it.

1. Learn One Skill At A Time:

Pick one skill to focus on.

Make it something that excites you. If you have a hard time getting excited connect with the reason for learning it. Think about the doors it could open for you.

Try to get the most bang for your buck. Is there an intersecting skill that your 3 potential mentors could benefit from? If you can pinpoint this it will save you time down the road.

2. Defining Your Target Performance Level

When learning a new skill it is CRITICAL to define what you are working towards. A good target performance level for this skill is a completed project for one of your potential mentors.

This will help you make the most of your time by using your potential mentor’s project as practice material.

3. Find Someone Who Knows What You Want To Know

Find The Expert

Use your social media platforms to see if you can’t get a warm connection to an expert. You can say something like this:

“Friends: Do you know anyone who knows how to do XYZ? If so, can you connect me with them? I’m starting to learn how to do XYZ.”

If that doesn’t work out do some googling to find an expert and reach out to do a quick interview with them.

Interview The Expert

Give them an overview of what you are trying to learn. If you have an example that’d be great as well.

1.What tools are critical for your success?

2. If you had to train me for a [insert skill] competition in 4 weeks with a million dollars on the line, how would you do it? What would you have me learn first? What resources would you use?

3. What have you learned that you think is a waste of time?

4. What “little skills” do you use the most?

5. [Insert any other relevant questions]

4. Do Some More Googling

Here are a few searches that might generate some useful information:

  • 80/20 of [Insert Skill]
  • Trends in [Insert Skill] [Insert Year]
  • [Best/Top] [Software/Tools/Apps] for [Insert Skill]

5. Obtaining The Tools

Get the tools you need that were identified in your research.

If the tool isn’t free try to obtain a free trial, look for coupon codes, or checkout alternativeto.net for a free alternative.

6. Create Space in Your Life For Dedicated Practice Time

Now you want to decide how much time you want to spend building this skill on a daily basis. If you dedicate 45 minutes a day to practice time, with one day off per week you will be right around 20 hours of practice time in 30 days.

Depending on the complexity of the skill you will need more or less time, but if you’ve taken the steps above you’ll be well on your way to learning this skill at an insanely fast rate.

Consider these questions to be sure you’re set up for success:

  • Do you have the time to learn this skill?
  • What will you have to give up in order to make the time?
  • Will your tools be available?
  • Will it take a lot of time and effort to prepare for practice?
  • What else could get in your way?
  • How will you make sure these things don’t get in your way?

Also be sure to set a trigger to remind yourself to practice. I recommend anchoring practice time to something else in your routine.

Fill in the blank: After [Consistent Part of My Routine] I will practice [Insert Skill].

Now this is where the real work comes in. Put in the sets and reps to learn the skill. Fight through the frustrations and celebrate your victories. This is an extremely fulfilling experience in and of itself. Do your best to cherish the process.

Once you’ve reached the target performance level and completed a project for your first choice mentor it’s time to reach out.

How To Reach Out

1. Pursue the Least Crowded Channel

Busy people get a lot of emails. How can you be sure that your message doesn’t blend in to the rest of the pack? Break a pattern. Do something most people won’t do. Here are two examples of how you can do just that.

Film a video: Record a short video and upload it to youtube explaining how you want to help them. This is extremely personal way to reach out and it’s an almost guaranteed way to get noticed.

Build a page: Use Striking.ly to build a beautiful page to propose the apprenticeship.

2. Show Them You Are Paying Attention

Make a mention of a post or piece of their business that you really appreciate, explain why it matters to you. If you’ve been a fan for a while, highlight that. Show them that you have similar interests just don’t be long-winded.

3. Format The Proposal:

Below is a slightly modified template of what Charlie Hoehn used to reach out to Tim Ferriss to become his first full-time employee. You can find his original email here. You can use this as a template or as inspiration:

  • Explain The Opportunity: Give the project a name and tell them about the opportunity you see.
  • What it would take: Explain in clear in concise way what it would take to fix the problem
  • How I can help: Showcase your work. You’ve already completed the project. This makes you look SO GOOD. Include screenshots if you can to make a visual impression. I use Skitch for all of my screenshot needs. Highly recommended.
  • How you would benefit: How does this add value to their life? Does it save them time? Does it increase website traffic? Does it increase email opt-ins? Does it increase revenue?
  • What’s in it for me:  How do you see this apprenticeship panning out? Establishing your intentions for this arrangement without being too pushy. Something like this: “If you like my work, I’d like to continue working with you starting as an unpaid internship with the possibility of a paid position in the future. I’d love to be able learn from someone who like you who has experience in area x, area y, and area z.”

4. Click Send

At this point you will have done pretty much all you can do to lock this up. If they accept, awesome. Great job.

If you get rejected, don’t worry. Regroup and reach out to your second choice.

Engineer Your Own Job Opening

Once you’re in the door you want to make working with you a “Must Have” Experience. You really want to go above and beyond and blow them away.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Fast Project Turnaround: Finish your projects ahead of time to really impress your mentor. I returned the first project Phil sent me on the SAME day.
  • Super Fast Response Time: When your mentor contacts you, get back to him/her almost immediately. It’s not easy but it will leave an impression.
  • Be Proactive: Fix problems that you weren’t asked to fix.
  • Become a Painkiller:  Be so good at what you do that it would be painful for your mentor to lose you.

If you do this you’ll learn so many skills in context. You will learn how things work in the “real world.”

On top of that, you’ll get access to everyone your mentor is connected with. Instead of taking the shot-gun blast approach to networking, you will be able to “plug-in” to your mentors existing network. By focusing on creating a quality relationship instead of a huge quantity of surface level connections, you will be well on your way to a world class network. Their stamp of approval means a lot to the people they trust.

Once you’ve put in the time and effort, make the ask for a paid position. Point to the work you’ve done and the recommendations you’ve made that have directly increased the profitability of the business.

There is no guarantee they’ll agree to a paid position, you’ll still reap the benefits of the skills learned and relationships built for years to come.

Let’s Make This Real

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Becoming an apprentice changed my life in more ways than I can count. I’ve amassed a set of valuable skills that is steadily growing. I’ve formed quality connections with inspiring people. I’m more confident, more capable, and better connected.

Because of the life-changing impact it’s had on me, I want to help others have a similar experience. I’ve got a few more strategies I’m tweaking now that can help accelerate the process (like skipping email and getting straight on the phone). I’m also building a small list of entrepreneurs that are looking for young and ambitious individuals to help them grow their businesses.

If you’re committed to become apprentice enter your name and email below. That way you’ll stay updated on the latest strategies and apprenticeship opportunities.

Fill out my online form.

The standard in education is outdated. Lectures and multiple-choice type exams don’t provide the hands-on experience that will truly benefit you in excelling in the working world.

If you’re serious about your success and happiness, put in the effort to design the career you want. Find the people you want to emulate, learn skills that will help you add value to their work and reach out to get that priceless, real-world experience.

You really can have the life you dream of… But are you willing to work for it?

 

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"PS. Ever feel overwhelmed when trying to reach your goals? Watch my TEDx talk to learn how to stop slowly killing yourself while accomplishing more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M9i3-QhWzg&t=565s"
Posted on : 22, Sep 2013

17 Comments

  • Awesome post man!

    Btw- would you recommend using Striking.ly on other projects besides using it to propose a apprenticeship?

    • Thanks Kyle!

      Yup Striking.ly is great to use whenever you need a clean and professional one page website. What else did you have in mind?

  • really nice work Mike … you are a superstar!

    • Eric that means a lot coming from you. Glad you liked it!

  • Mike, you really outline a clear precise strategy. I printed out this article and already have it highlighted with action points. Thanks a ton man!

    • Thanks Carter! I’m so pumped you found it print-worthy.

  • Not just a helpful piece of advice but actually a holistig strategy to escape the random 9 to 5 boredom. Great work, Mike! =)

    • Thanks for reading Marina!

  • Mike, This post is brilliant & would have saved me 10 years of trial and error on a lot of these topics. Seriously epic post. Thank you for all the time and energy you put into it. I would not be surprised if it literally changes lives.

    • I wish I knew this stuff 10 years ago Eric! We would have connected sooner for sure.

  • Awesome article! Speaking from experience, an apprenticeship absolutely worth it, and by far it was the best experience I’ve ever had. I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to write about this and break it down for people!

    • Megan! Glad you liked it. I’m happy to hear you’ve also had a positive experience with apprenticeships.

  • Dude. This is a monster resource. I love it. And so cool that you embody it, giving proof to its potential. Rock on!!!

    • Thanks Jacob! Means a lot to me.

  • […] The Forgotten Strategy To Learn Skills Insanely Fast, Build a World-Class Network and Engineer Your …. […]

  • You’re badass… No excuses man. Or you do it or you don’t. There is no try. Great post!

  • Charlie hoehn. I helped coach him in basketball… now he’s doing a little coaching himself!

So, what do you think?