Every year, I visit Europe in the summer to teach at The BlackSmith Liberty and Entrepreneurship Camp in Lithuania. My friends Simon Black, Matt Smith, and I host over 60 students from more than 35 countries. The goal: Empower each participant to grow personally and professionally.
This year’s camp was one of the most successful in history. Students of every discipline poured in—tech investors, Bitcoin millionaires, tea importers, Amazon gurus, marijuana farmers, and seven-figure digital marketers (including one student from Latvia who is making over $2 million selling iPhone photography info products). We even had a neuroscientist!
I was lucky enough to be one of the instructors/hosts of the camp, alongside a music industry executive, the CEO of a financial company, a world-class copywriter, the CFO of a large farming business, and Simon Black. The talent pool was astoundingly impressive.
Not surprisingly, I sat transfixed through every presentation at the camp, taking pages of notes to share with you. But there’s one lesson in particular that resonated—one that’s worth your full and undivided attention:
Always Add Value
This underlying message was mentioned over and over again, and became the theme of the entire camp. Adding value is how you make your mark on the world and open an unlimited numbers of doors in life. We taught our students the following ACRE formula to help them find a way to add value to the world, to business partnerships, and to customers so they can enjoy true freedom.
A – Action
You must take massive action. As my good friend Bedros Keuilian says, “Many experts invest time and money in learning new skills, but still struggle because they haven’t put those skills to use.”
In other words: Act. Get outside of your comfort zone. Fail forward. Those who don’t take action to cement their personal success will end up in the same place 12 months later.
But you’re different—you are an action-taker. Don’t just talk. Do.
C – Capital
I’m not just talking about money, although having money makes the path to financial success a lot easier. There are other forms of capital—time, energy, sweat equity, relationships, and intellectual acuity. If you don’t have money to bring to a deal, what else can you offer? Can you make impactful introductions? Can you invest physical energy in setting up the perfect environment for negotiations? Can you do the research needed to make a win-win deal for everybody?
The bottom line: You cannot let a lack of financial capital hold you back when there are so many other forms of capital you can bring to a deal.
R – Relationships
“Your network is your net worth,” the old saying goes. And that’s absolutely true. But your network is much more than that. It impacts your health, your lifespan, your energy, your wisdom. It’s the source of your greatest memories and the foundation for experiences that will keep you smiling. To me, relationships are everything. All the gold in the world is no good if you are the only one there to count it.
Over the past eight years, the BlackSmith Camp has brought together over 400 smart, young, ambitious go-getters and go-givers. These “kids” can go to almost any country in the world, connect with a BlackSmith alumnus, and have an instant local network. This was nearly impossible when I was growing up. Still, every opportunity in my life has come through relationships with other like-minded, positive, ambitious people. I am eternally grateful for this, and hope that you can enjoy the same kind of partnerships.
But it starts with learning how to give. At the camp, Simon Black and Matt Smith teach a concept called Network Infiltration. This is an advanced, out-of-the-box form of what most people refer to as networking, focusing more on giving than getting. The pitfall of many early relationships is the “take all” approach. Author Bob Burg corrects this in his book, “The Go-Giver.”: The best way to get ahead in life, he teaches, is to “out-give the universe.” And to successfully implement a habit of giving, you need to avoid these common mistakes:
a) Never ask if you can “pick someone’s brain.” First of all, this is just crude language. Second, it shows you’re all about YOU and have no interest in the other party.
b) Avoid asking, “How can I help?” This seems counter-intuitive, but it’s a common misstep that puts the responsibility for action on another person. They have to figure out how you can help. But they might know nothing about you, the relationships you have, or the skills you’ve built. How would they know how you could help them? Instead, figure out how you can help them before you meet.
To me, relationships are everything. All the gold in the world is no good if you are the only one there to count it.
E – Expertise
Action, capital, and relationships can only go so far if you lack the skills needed in a particularly industry. What you need is expertise—a knowledge base that is only built from a combination of study and hands-on research. Become an apprentice. Find a mentor. Work for them. Do every job at every level. Know your industry inside and out.
One of my friends and coaching clients in the internet marketing world, Shaun Hadsall, is a great example. He initially struggled when his skills didn’t match his dreams. But he sought out mentors and learned the e-mail marketing and copywriting skills needed to match his sales success to his ambitions. In fact, I remember Shaun investing a lot of money to spend a couple of days working side-by-side with marketing guru Joel Marion to become a better copywriter. That’s dedication. That’s real world education. That’s how you elevate your expertise as quickly as possible.
And remember to pay it forward. When you finally find success and stability, be willing to teach your skills to someone less experienced. Take on apprentices and encourage them to add value to your organization.
You can start right now. Send an email to your contacts offering an apprenticeship. With thousands of raving fans, it won’t be hard for you to find a couple of potential superstars willing to work under you. They should be paid (about $12-15 an hour) and given the opportunity to learn every facet of your business. You can even model this ad from Early to Rise.
The friendships I’ve made through the BlackSmith Camp have been invaluable, and have led to two million-dollar partnerships—and counting. But it all started with the principle of adding value. If there’s one wealth—and life—lesson to remember, this is it.