My #1 Mistake in Life

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“The first thing I tell anybody who’s going to be doing interviews is homework,” said Barbara Walters about conducting a great interview. “I do so much homework, I know more about the person than he or she does about himself.”

This year I’ve been interviewed on over 50 podcasts. The best interviews, not surprisingly, have followed Barbara’s formula. The best interviewers did their homework, asking personal questions specific to their audience.

Doing homework on me is not hard. I’ve shared many personal stories here at Early To Rise, and in my book, The Perfect Day Formula. It’s easy for an interviewer to draw out my struggles of battling anxiety or my goose-bump-evoking journey of how I came to be the owner of Early To Rise.

Many interviewers have also taken Barbara’s advice of saving the toughest question to the end. That’s when I’m often asked, “Craig, what’s the biggest mistake you have made in your career?”

It’s a question that I can answer quickly and without fail.

My biggest mistake was not hiring a coach earlier in my career.

I made this foolish mistake because I was cheap, stubborn, and thought I was smarter than everyone else. My hubris nearly led to me losing everything. It contributed to my anxiety attacks, caused me a lot of frustration, and fed my jealousy as I watched others in my industry come out of nowhere and surpass me. And they did so because they were not too proud to do what I should have done.

By late 2003, I was making more than enough money from my online business side venture that I could have invested in hiring a mentor. But it wasn’t until 2006 that I finally set aside my ego and hired my first coach. When I did that, his advice helped me make more money and help more people than I had in the entire six years that I was trying to do things all by myself.

I regret going it alone for so long, figuring things out the hard way, and ignoring the easier path to success that had already been blazed before me by potential mentors. As a result, I was not nearly as successful as my friends and colleagues believed. They all thought I was making more money than I was, and I felt ashamed knowing the truth.

Once I smartened up, I quickly added many mentors to my life and my success continued to grow rapidly as a result. These mentors included paid coaches such as Yanik Silver, Dan Kennedy, Tom Venuto, Matt Smith, and Bedros Keuilian.

Having Professional Accountability from a coach is one of my Five Pillars of Success. It is different than just having friends giving you positive social support.

A coach brings you three gifts that a friend or colleague cannot.

  1. Expert Advice

  2. Experience from someone that has been there and done that

  3. A level of accountability that accepts NO excuses

Your coach should come highly recommended based on these three traits. They should be able to prove their success through client testimonials. They should have years of experience, and a ‘stern-but-loving-parent’ approach to accountability. If they become more of a buddy and stop holding you accountable, you’ll never get the full benefits of their experience and expert advice.

Seth Godin agrees.

“Mentorship works for two reasons,” Godin said. “Certainly, the person being mentored gains from advice and counsel and access to others via introductions, etc. But mostly, it works because the person with a mentor has a responsibility to stand up and actually get moving. The only way to repay your mentor is by showing the guts it takes to grow and to matter.

“Interesting to note, then, that the primary driver of mentor benefit has nothing to do with the mentor herself, nothing beyond the feeling of obligation the student feels to the teacher. Whether or not the mentor does anything, this obligation delivers benefits.”

When I hired my first mentor, Tom Venuto, I was in the midst of struggling with my crippling anxiety attacks. Before each of our weekly phone calls, I had to do a few minutes of slow deep breathing and said a little prayer hoping to make it through the entire call without having a full blown panic attack.

I often wanted to skip the calls, but as Seth said, I had the obligation of showing up. Thankfully I did, because with Tom’s expert advice my business rapidly became more successful than I ever expected. Tom’s coaching was also a big reason I was able to overcome my issues with anxiety. Without his help, I don’t know where I’d be today, and frankly I don’t even want to think about it.

So if you’re struggling, the best advice I can give you is to stop being so stubborn and go get a mentor. Hire a coach today. Find one that has achieved what you want to achieve in life, and that shares your morals and ethics, and find a way to work with them. This changed my life and it will change yours for the better, too.

It’s been 10 years since I hired my first coach. And since that time I’ve come to believe this old saying is true:

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

You are ready. And I am here.

Don’t wait any longer.

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