A few years ago, when I was hosting a segment on the streaming television network The Lip, I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Key.
Stephen is a prolific inventor, the author of several best selling books and an all around remarkable human. Tim Ferriss credits Stephen with helping him lay the foundation for “The Four Hour Workweek.” Now, I’m lucky enough to call Stephen a friend and a mentor.
There are a ton of articles online about how you’re supposed to give value in order to build a friendship with remarkable people — and this will always be true.
But there’s a way to supercharge this process: fearless generosity.
Friendships revolve around mutually fearless generosity. I mean, think about it. At the end of the day, friends are people who we select to bring into our lives because we enjoy hearing from them and spending time with them. We love them because they offer something unique that we just can’t find anywhere else.
The more generous others are to us with their unique gifts and talents, the more we like them and want to reciprocate. It’s a virtuous cycle.
After I interviewed Stephen for my show on The Lip, I wouldn’t have been offended at all if he’d casually neglected to return my emails afterwards. This is kinda just the way it is online.
After all, I got an interview for my show, he got some exposure. It was a mutual win, but it didn’t mean that we were now “besties.”
But a few days later, I got an email from him:
“Hey Daniel, I really loved our interview. Would you like to write for Entrepreneur Magazine? My editor is looking for new contributors and I think you’d be a great fit.”
I was floored. Not because I didn’t think that I was “worthy” of writing for Entrepreneur — but mostly because I’d expected most important people to hoard their influential connections and contacts from people they’d just met.
Connections to editors at big publications are highly coveted, too.
There’s this faulty idea that if we help a new friend make a connection with somebody influential in our network, we are somehow responsible for everything that happens after that between them.
“What if they don’t get along and I look bad?”
“What if one of them is annoyed by my initiative to connect them?”
“What if it backfires and the influencer no longer wants to work with me as a result?”
But Stephen didn’t worry about that. He generously introduced me to his editor at Entrepreneur and within a few weeks, I was writing for the magazine.
New exposure. New heights. Instantly. Because of one person’s generosity and fearlessness in helping me. The act was altruistic, for sure.
But he wasn’t done.
I started writing for Entrepreneur and things started going well. Then, I got another call from Stephen:
“Hey Daniel, have you ever thought about writing a book? I could introduce you to my literary agent.”
Shocked. Completely floored. Again.
Literary agents are typically seen as the first impossible obstacle in the nearly indecipherable maze of traditional publishing — and just getting an agent is a process that frustrates 90% of people into quitting before they ever make progress.
But with one email exchange, Stephen helped me clear that hurdle. Instantly.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
My first meeting with the agent did not result in a deal. In fact, it took over 18 months for me to build up my brand enough for her to take me on — but that initial connection wouldn’t have been possible without Stephen.
(Side note: Kirsten is the absolute best. A complete rockstar. After we eventually signed a great deal with Penguin about 2 years later, she confessed to me that she gets so many proposals coming her way that the only way she’s able to make good decisions about who to take seriously is via introduction from a trusted friend or current client. It’s a bit of a closed circle.)
Now, what was Stephen getting out of all this help? Why bother being so generous? It just seems like more work on his end…and it’s not really necessary. He’s already “set” — and he doesn’t need any favors from me. So why bother going out of his way to help me?
A few reasons, I think:
- He genuinely likes helping people. That’s part of his life’s mission — so introducing people to each other is in line with his broader goal of helping as many people as he can.
- And this is the big one — he understands what I’m going to call “Entrepreneurial Chi.”
Entrepreneurial Chi is the secret force that multiplies your generosity ten-fold to your benefit. The concept is simple: plant a seed, reap a forest.
Stephen invested a small amount of time into me. A few hours at most between the initial interview and some phone calls/emails. That was the initial “seed.”
As a result, our relationship blossomed. I started to pick up steam on my own and guess who was at the top of my “People To Help Out When I Make It” list?
Yep, you got it. Stephen Key.
Over the next year, I got featured in TIME Magazine as a direct result of my work at Entrepreneur. I introduced Stephen to the editors there.
I spent some time helping him with his social media strategy, which was an area I’d started to have massive success with.
I provided a glowing testimonial for his work, which is featured on his website — and I recommended his book, One Simple Idea, to countless friends. I even bought a copy for my dad.
My dad has always been an inventor at heart, so I knew he’d love the book. But the results of simply giving him a copy wildly exceeded even what I imagined was possible.
Now my parents and I have started a new business together with several products in development — and they even purchased Stephen’s $2,500 coaching program, which is PHENOMENAL, by the way.
Stephen has new business and a new success story in the making — and I get the opportunity to connect with my parents and build something great that will provide for us for years to come.
This is how the seed has turned into a forest.
Literally everybody wins. All because of fearless generosity with his connections and time.
He didn’t need to reach out. He didn’t need to make introductions. But he helped me grow — and as I grew, it was only natural to give back to him.
This is the power of generosity. This is Entrepreneurial Chi.
The take home message: Don’t be stingy with your connections. It doesn’t make sense. You’re not helping anybody by playing “close to the chest” all the time.
The notion that people will be annoyed by your introductions/connections are false — and they are probably one of the reasons why you’re not getting what you want faster.
Be fearlessly generous and watch it come back to you.