Homework. XI.

We live in a time where more information and resources are available than ever.

The Internet has made it possible to connect with people you would have never been able to otherwise. Social media provides us with the incredible power to reach out to anyone.

With all the resources that come with the so-called “information age” we live in, many of us squander the benefits of access by reading useless websites or following celebrities– a huge waste of time.

Think about it. There are hundreds of people out there who are either doing what you want to be doing. There are thousands you can learn from. It’s easier than ever to find and meet these people. All it takes is a little time and effort.

This week I am challenging you to do something we often talk about, but rarely act on: find a mentor.

Here’s how you will do that.


Today’s homework is to reach out to someone you don’t already know and ask for advice.

Even though this can be scary and uncomfortable, the returns can be enormous. People are hesitant because it feels “forced” and they don’t want to look like they’re taking and not giving.

One way to alleviate this is to ask: “What do I have to offer this person?”

The value that you offer could be anything from user experience feedback, to talking about a shared interest. When you think of it as a shared give-and-take, it’ll feel more natural and less like some kind of networking exercise.

Take a minute a write down a few things you have to offer someone.

One great place to find potential mentors is at events. Go to events, conferences, and meet-ups, ready to ask questions. If you show genuine enthusiasm, you’ll have already established a good rapport and connection, which will make everything that much easier.

If going to an event is too scary, you can also build a relationship from email or Twitter. Almost everyone responds well to tweets–sometimes even better than email. Even if they don’t, you won’t have lost anything by reaching out.

Don’t forget to use the network that you already have. Make a short post on Twitter or Facebook, asking your friends if they know anyone who is an expert in knitting, coding, writing, or whatever else.

As you do this, you’ll discover that it’s not actually that painful. Most people are more than willing to share their knowledge with someone who is interested. There is absolutely no risk in reaching out – and who knows, you may find an invaluable life-long mentor just by taking this one step.

So choose someone. Reach out to them and offer to meet them. Today.


This assignment was sent to me by Dale Stephens, who I mentored at the Thiel Fellowship over the past year. His book, Hacking Your Education, is out now.





7 responses to “Homework. XI.”

  1. Steve G Avatar
    Steve G

    I’m giving myself extra credit because I completed this assignment yesterday before you asked for it today. I accomplished mine through LinkedIn, a great resource for mentors and a site crawling with opportunities to find them.

    On another note, it has been almost two months. You promised a picture of your memento mori. We’re still waiting.

  2. Joseph Ratliff Avatar

    If more people did the one simple thing you gave for homework in this post Julien… your blog wouldn’t be necessary, LOL.

    We “get advice” from blogs, because it’s easier than asking. We follow the path of least resistance in most cases, doing research would be one exception.

    Except when we use “doing research” as an excuse for following the path of least resistance. 😉

  3. Mitch Avatar

    Doing “it” every single day 🙂 Here’s a little secret. There’s nothing I enjoy more than showing young trial lawyers how to help people and try their cases in an ethical and effective fashion. All then need to do is reach out to me…

  4. Jenna Timmons Avatar
    Jenna Timmons

    You are totally right that many waste the availability of the internet by never using it to reach out to others for expertise. Many people I know do see the idea of reaching out and asking for advise as being to pushy, when in reality there are many people on the internet willing to help out.

  5. Stephen "Steve" Q Shannon Avatar
    Stephen “Steve” Q Shannon

    As a subscriber I was asked, nicely, to come on over here and make a comment. That’s part one.

    Part two. My “take” is that doing real homework akin to what you shared must be said over and over again.

    I am told most adults must see a commercial 7 times before they even think about taking action. Some fewer. Some more. I surmise.

    Me? I need to be reminded. And I need to remind my tribe members.

    Watch. See how few take action and do homework as you are recommending.

    But if only one does, I am elated for them, not for me.

    It’s a good feeling though. I admit it. I like that when someone invests in themselves.

    Thank you, Julien. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat. sQs Your advocate!

  6. Peter Paluska Avatar

    Interesting homework assignment, Julien.

    Mentors are hugely invaluable, I agree. Whenever I hear that someone was “self-taught”, I think “Really?”

    It somehow gives me great comfort to know that the greatest tennis players in the world, for example, still have coaches (of course, they do! you say). Of course, they would still be good without them, but would they be AS good? Would they be truly great? I don’t think so.

    It’s the same for anyone. You can work on your art or craft on your own and make great strides, but eventually we all need feedback and insights from someone who has been doing it for a longer time than we have.

    I feel like I am always looking for mentors. Yes, plural – multiple mentors are usually better than just one.

    Salut et merci!


  7. Katie Avatar

    Can I take this even further. Can I ask somebody here – anybody- without knowing who you are – to be the person that I reach out to for this homework. I have no idea who you are. But I am pretty sure I’d be able to offer something back. And this is how I know it:

    I stop by this page every day. If there is not a new post I read one of the old ones. It keeps me on the right track, because it makes me feel not so alone- when I know there are others that value the content on this site and try to integrate it into their lives. That, to me, means I already have something in common with you, because you have consciously gone to this blog. Yes, you, because you are are reading this.

    Just drop me a line with anything. Maybe you have suggestions for something good to read. Maybe I have great story. Like Julien says, you won’t have lost anything by reaching out. Try me. katiehetland@gmail.com

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