When "Keeping in Touch" Hurts vs. Helps You (Plus: Win a Virtual Assistant for 2008)

23 Comments

Contacting would-be VIP mentors is something most people have trouble with. The question isn’t just “how do I contact them?” but also “how should I communicate with them once I do?” I teach students how to reach the unreachables in my guest lectures at Princeton, and here is my response to a recent e-mail about the latter.

Dear Mr. Ferriss,

Hi. I took the first step towards gaining a mentor by calling [important Chairman], and he said I can call him whenever I had any more questions. I was wondering how frequently you contact your mentors. I don’t want to contact him so frequently that it consumes his time, but I don’t want him to forget about me either.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Sincerely,

[A blog reader]

My response…

Have one truly meaningful conversation with him and ask good questions. Do the same about 3 months later and you’ll never have to “keep in touch” by bothering him. He’ll remember you. I never “keep in touch” by calling or emailing when I have nothing important to say or ask. Have fewer deep connections and you don’t need to. Be memorable and you don’t need to be frequent. The latter just annoys important/busy people.

Hope that helps!

Tim

Related links:

How to Get George Bush or the CEO of Google on the Phone

Odds and Ends: Win a Virtual Assistant and Outsource Your Life

As many of you know, I’ve outsourced everything from hardcore business functions to personal chores, such as emptying my inbox, and even online dating (see my “extreme personal outsourcing” article for the last).

Well, there is some good news if you’ve ever thought about personal outsourcing but haven’t yet tried it. To help you kick off the New Year right, Elance is sponsoring a contest that will award a $5,000 credit to a winner to enable them to hire their own Virtual Assistant (VA) for 2008.

Enter by going here and answering the question: “How would you use a virtual assistant to grow your business or improve your personal life?”

You can submit an answer in written, video (check out this one) or audio form. As one of the judges, I will be looking for submissions that demonstrate a compelling business or personal need for a VA and show a lot of creativity. Entries must be received by January 25, 2008 11:59:59pm PST.

Go get ‘em!

Posted on: January 11, 2008.

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23 comments on “When "Keeping in Touch" Hurts vs. Helps You (Plus: Win a Virtual Assistant for 2008)

  1. Great advice Tim. Your response makes a lot of sense. If I was to put myself in the “unreachable persons” shoes and I was to get a call or email once a week from someone asking meaningless questions it would probably irritate me. If you wait 6 months to contact someone that might be too long of a stretch if it is someone you want to keep in contact with. 3 months seems just about right. Thanks for the post.

    Jim Sprouse

    Like

  2. That exact question is what stopped me from any action and I just felt it was a good idea. Another question that came up due to my untrained memory for names.

    I would not expect someone to remember the one phone call they had with a “Mike” 3 or 6 months ago. I have a nickname and that might be more memorable. Any thoughts?

    ###

    The name won’t be what’s memorable. It’s something memorable — an excellent question that shows you’ve done your homework and are going places, an odd habit like breakdancing, etc. — that makes your name stick. Do and ask the uncommon and you can just remind with “Hi, it’s Joe Smith the programmer-cum-breakdancer who spoke with you a few months ago.” They’ll remember.

    Cheers,

    Tim

    Like

  3. I love this answer you gave in the fast company interview:

    No. Most corporate workers are bored and dangerously comfortable. They are in that gray area between love and hate that leaves most with constant low-grade anxiety and an acute sense of wasted potential.

    This describes me perfectly. I’m going to print this out and pin it to my cubicle wall to keep reminding me of it.

    great work.

    Like

  4. Okay, I realize that I’m speaking to the master of contacting mentors and that most tricks will not work.

    That being said, I’ve read The Four Hour Work Week four times now and am trying my best to implement it in my day to day life. I do have one important and outstanding question.

    I’ve been working on creating a product. Sometimes I get far enough to realize that I’m not the first cat with the idea. Other times I realize there is no interest. One question that is not addressed in your book is how many attempts failed or never got off the ground prior to BrainQUICKEN.

    What also amazes me is that when I search for Cognamine, BrainQUICKEN is the only thing that shows up. How is this possible? In the years following BrainQUICKEN and with 4HWW as a bestseller, how how is it that no copycats have emerged?

    Thanks,
    Steve

    ###

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the comment. Copycats have emerged. Most have failed because they target too broadly or attempt to replace another product (steal mindshare) vs. finding another niche. One large public company actually imitated BQ after pretending to want to acquire the company (common practice, btw) and lost millions because they felt distribution would beat branding. It didn’t in this case.

    Cheers!

    Tim

    Like

  5. Thanks Tim!

    I have been silently asking that question to myself and you’ve cleared it up for me!

    You should write a book on finding, contacting and maintaining relationships with ‘unreachable’ mentors. I know you wrote about it as a challenge in ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ but it seems like you have a lot of unique and innovative solutions surrounding this paticular topic and I’m sure there is a good market for this material. It might be something to consider in the future.

    Chill

    Gordon

    Like

  6. I enjoyed this blog very much. The reason I say this is b/c when you do something different it does stick to your mind. This is true in good and bad actions. What would you attribute to always keeping your mind busy?

    Enjoy S America

    N Enjoy the Culture,

    Jose Castro-Frenzel

    aka, the guy who comments on all your blogs

    Like

  7. January 10th, 2008 at 9:26 am
    Hi Tim

    I read your book.It was great.I was already having that lifestyle :) (working a few hrs a week and travelling all around the world)

    Now I have to do something major in my life.I have a new project that has the potential to carry me whereever I want.The problem is it has to start webbased and I am a total dummy in webmarketing etc but I looked through http://www.marketingexperiments.com to get a starting help ..Oh boy, they /you(I dont know who is in there) charge a lot of money and I am absolutely no new york times or reuters.I am just a beginner who likes to use adwords or create great traffic etc without being screwed by costs.

    Now I am not even sure if you d ever reply to this when you re playing with spiders in Uruguay but I need your help.I hardly have anything to offer in return in traditional money wise .I meanI assume what I can pay would be trivial for you …

    I am a turkish female, 33, living in LA at the moment and has to work out this medical tourism business for Turkey. It’s my passion to help these uninsured americans suffering from joint pains and cant afford to have surgery here(I personally suffer a bit from aching knees )So I have a great niche marketing project .All the others try to do all operations in a lot of different countries.Anyway this is a very rewarding but hard work .I just need to optimize web skills (which I currently have none )which would help me to make a good start.

    What can you suggest me to do ?Like I said my budget is pretty limited for the time being but if my website starts off well the budget will not be a problem in the coming 12 months.

    I d be extremely grateful if you can refer me to people that can help me to start marketing my website(someone is already making the actual site now ) or if you are interested in the subject yourself (that d be the big thing in the coming ten years outsourcing medical care globally)you can join in too.

    Anyhow I already wrote too much….with the hope that you will actually read this mail and respond …have safe travels back home …..fazilet

    Like

  8. I agree — keep the signal high, the noise low.

    Asking questions that make them think is key. For example, a couple of my favorite questions to ask someone of power are:
    - what bottlenecks you? (money? the right people? time?)
    - if you had a genie, what 3 wishes would you ask?
    - if you were a genie, what wishes would be your favorite wish to grant?

    I also like the basic … what did you learn that surprised you that you wished somebody would have told you when you first started?

    Like

  9. Hi Tim – or anyone else that has any insight into my dilemma, apologies this question isn’t relevant to the blog entry.
    I’d just read FHWW gone into work after a christmas / new year break ready to start a new smart, less hard work life to find they’re implementing timesheets for all employees based on advice from a time-management consultant! How would you suggest I swerve/duck dive/deal with this so it doesn’t show up that I’m off and about doing exciting things when they expect me to be at a desk?
    I’ve so far managed to avoid this based on technical reasons, but I suspect that within the week I’m going to have my arm bent. – HELP!

    Like

  10. This message is for Steve Kinney, sometimes being the first is not always important. Remember Richard Branson has started several companies that were not the first. Taking action is the most important tool and resource one can use.

    Hope this helps,

    Cheers

    Jose Castro-Frenzel

    Like

  11. Hello Tim,
    I have a couple of questions, first, is there a limit to how many times someone can enter? I have a ton of ideas and the 500 word limit is not going to work. Can I submit an entry per idea? If so can I submit a written entry AND an audio entry? Are there any restrictions to the content of both the proposal as well as the entry?

    -As one of the judges, is begging a good alternative?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Like

  12. Hello Tim,
    I have a couple of questions, first, is there a limit to how many times someone can enter? I have a ton of ideas and the 500 word limit is not going to work. Can I submit an entry per idea? If so can I submit a written entry AND an audio entry? Are there any restrictions to the content of both the proposal as well as the entry?

    -As one of the judges, is begging a good alternative?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    ###

    Hi Maria,

    Begging won’t do much here, I’m afriad :) Please see the rules on the Elance page, as I am not running the contest itself, just acting as a judge.

    Good luck!

    Tim

    Like

  13. In answer to – What do you need on your blog”….
    You need a “DATE TIM IF YOU CAN FIND HIM” site.
    Than you can add some love advice to your blog from your world of wisdom.
    No amount of money or adventures equals the true bliss out of love…..help out the wayward!
    Plus extra bonus:
    That way cute girls can email you all over the world while you travel and you might just find “the ONE” that can travel by your side and bliss out on life with you and add a feminine touch to your blogs…(I’m a bit busy right now but will be available at the end of feb) Ha ha – it would be cool though – there’s a real shortage of conscious free and happy men and it would be good times…
    Good Luck,
    Linda

    Like

  14. In answer to your blog – What does my blog need?”
    You need a “DATE TIM IF YOU CAN FIND HIM” site.
    Than you can add some love advice fto your blog from your world of wisdom.
    No amount of money or adventures equals the true bliss out of love…..help out the wayward!
    Plus extra bonus:
    That way cute girls can email you all over the world while you travel and you might just find “the ONE” that can travel by your side and bliss out on life with you and add a feminine touch to your blogs…(.l’m a bit busy right now but will be available at the end of feb) Ha ha – it would be cool though – there’s a real shortage of conscious free and happy men and it would be good times…
    Good Luck,
    Linda
    Malibu,CA

    Like

  15. Tim, I’ve been surprised at how accessible some people can be just be email through company websites or blogs as long as you can find their contact info. It’s really not all that hard, well, except trying to pin Tim down. lol

    Like