Category Archives: Relationships

Finding A Great Mentor Is Hard. Here’s How I Found Mine.

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Having lunch with my mentor Ed Neff.

There has been no greater impact on my professional, personal, and romantic life than having mentors. That’s right, I have someone’s guidance in every aspect of my life so, yes, I even have a love mentor! The benefit of mentorship hasn’t only been through my role as mentee, I’ve also realized the power of being a mentor, starting in college with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and continuing through today where I still mentor several people.

 

While mentorship has a certain meaning to many, it’s not neatly defined, causing confusion about exactly “what is a mentoring relationship?” The largest misconception I’ve noticed is the thought you can’t be mentored unless you have an official relationship with someone who confirms they’re your mentor. This is an old and limiting belief. I spent the early part of my business career being mentored by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Susan Taylor, & Reginald Lewis. None of them knew it, though. I believe simply listening to someone’s speeches, reading articles and blog posts they’ve written, or exchanging thoughts with them via social media, can all be considered “being mentored.” At the end of the day, I define mentorship as a personal development in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person guides a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

 

That being said, you won’t get an argument from me about whether formal mentorship is more effective. It’s MUCH more effective! [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]A relationship with established roles and defined expectations always gets optimal results.[/inlinetweet] So how do you structure a formal mentoring relationship, especially with someone who is highly sought after? Well, the first thing to know is while it may seem against conventional thought, whatever you do, please, please, please do not ask someone to be your mentor. Seems strange, right? You would think in order for someone to be a mentor, you would need to ask them.

 

The problem is when we ask we’re typically asking strangers, people we have only met recently, or those we don’t yet have strong bonds with. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, sums it up best in her book Lean In:

 

“If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious.  The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”

 

So the real question is not so much “how to ask someone to be a mentor” but rather, “how to build a rapport with someone you would like to become your mentor?” Here are the 5 steps I used (as well as steps that were used on me) to seal the deal on my most rewarding mentoring relationships.

 

1. Become Mentee Material

Are you somebody you yourself would like to mentor? Are you open, flexible, resilient, and respectful? Are you eager to learn, and committed to modifying how you’re interacting in the world so you can have even more success, reward and happiness?

If the answer is “no” don’t move to step 2 until you nail this one first. It took several failed mentoring relationships for me to appreciate the importance of becoming mentee material. Be someone who is already actively building his/her life, and is demonstrating that every day.

 

2. Make Sure The Person Shares Your Values

Don’t simply see their awards and accolades and because you aspire for those same things believe he or she is the right person to guide you. It’s critical that you know your potential mentor has the same values you do. Values are essentially your guidebook to life. If your mentor has different values, it means they play by a different set of rules from you. Some of which you may consider immoral or unethical.

 

Most people searching for a mentor don’t focus on values because they either don’t know their own (and so don’t have anything to match against) or don’t want to expend the effort to assess someone else’s values. Determining someone’s values requires dedication. You have to watch actions play out over time. While values are key, I don’t believe any other similarities are critical – so your mentor doesn’t need to be the same ethnicity, religion, gender, or nationality. My greatest mentors (like Ed Neff pictured above) have all been different from me in many aspects, but we always had the same values in common. Shared values are the single most important matchmaking category for success (and that’s in all relationships – business, platonic, and romantic).

 

3. Advocate For Their Work!

Tweet their posts, comment in a positive way on their blogs, share their updates, start a discussion on LinkedIn about a post they’ve made, promote and attend a live talk they’re giving, and the list goes on.  In short, offer your unique voice, perspectives, experiences and resources to further the action and conversation that these influencers have sparked.  Understand that you are able to be of service to them, and go out and do it. In particular, show up in their comments – this is where many people with large followings go to for their “oxygen.” Continue to show up, give insight, and provide value, consistently. It’s important to note this step isn’t simply about advocating their work for a few weeks and thinking you’ll be noticed immediately. It takes time and keep in mind, you may never be recognized for being their advocate. It took me 4 years of consistently promoting and attending his independent film events before finally connecting with someone who later became my mentor, Ed Neff. What got me through those many years of advocating with no reciprocation was shifting my mindset to giving with no expectation.

 

4. Elevate Your Value To Them Over Time

Go beyond the comments and offer ideas, refer new clients or business to them. What finally placed me in a position of strength with Ed was when I introduced him to a potential acquirer of one of his businesses. This increased value will move you from someone your possible mentor sees as merely a member of their audience to a member of their network. It’s this critical step I see so many not do and it’s the one strategic move that will most differentiate you from mentee potential to mentee personified.

 

5. Don’t Ask For Mentorship, Make A Statement

Going back to the Sanberg quote above, you’ll know your relationship is in the right place for formal mentorship when you don’t have to “ask” but simply say – “you’re my mentor.” I recall when I made this same statement to Ed, we were having dinner and towards the end I simply said “thanks for being such a great mentor.” That was 7 years of stellar guidance ago.

 

Finding a great (formal) mentor can seem daunting, but start where you are. Begin through the inspiring people you’re already interacting and working with now. Mentors need to be people to whom you have demonstrated your potential – who know how you think, act, communicate and contribute. And they have to like, trust and believe in you already (why else would they help you?).  They also need to believe with absolute certainty that you’ll put to great use all their input and feedback.

 

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The Most Simple Body Language Rule That Will Change Your Life Forever

The Most Simple Body Language Rule That Will Change Your Life Forever

4 years ago, I read about a very simple body language rule in Janine Driver’s book You Say More Than You Think and immediately thought I had acquired a special super power. To test it, I jumped in my car and drove to the nearest supermarket. BOOM! I felt like I was the master of body language!! Everything she outlined I saw play out before my eyes. Little did I know, I had just developed a skill that I would go on to teach hundreds of clients, many of whom would later tell me the quick tip changed their lives.

 

The origin of the Belly Button Rule dates back to the 1930s and since then, numerous scientists and body language experts have honed the theory. Most notably, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, professor Emeritus of Psychology and UCLA has said “the belly button rule is the most important indicator of reading a person’s intention.”

 

Let me break down the rule plainly:

The belly button rule (also known as BBR) means the direction of our navel reflects our true interest.

 

Simple.

 

So now that you know the definition, let me give you a quick test. Look at the photo below and;

  1. Identify the person who has the least interest in their conversation?
  2. Identify the most popular person?

Group of businesspeople communicating

The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a BBR master!! Now that you know what the rule means AND how to spot it, here’s how to apply your new skill in popular situations:

 

At Work/Meeting

Say you’re sitting at a conference table with a small group of co-workers. Once the meeting gets started, check out where their belly buttons face during most of the meeting. If you have that one co-worker who appears to be engaged in the meeting but has a navel pointed at the door, they’re most likely not interested in the conversation.

 

Another great use of BBR at work is to see at what point the people you’re meeting with shift the direction of their belly button. Let’s say at one point in the meeting you voice your opinion about a new sales goal and a person who had previously been focusing on you (with their navel) suddenly points their belly button in a different direction. This shift could indicate a hidden emotion, a difference in opinion or a lack of interest. All great clues to note and use to your advantage.

 

On a Date

You’re seated across from a man you’re meeting for coffee for the first time. He’s saying all the right things, looks like the perfect gentleman (you could definitely sop him up with a biscuit), and he even keeps good eye contact with you. However, during parts of the date, his navel shifts away from your direction. This is not cause for a red alert but it is very telling. It shows that he may be uncomfortable and want out of that particular topic of conversation. Of course, when you see a prolonged navel pointing away from you, it means your date has mentally checked out the conversation and wants to go.

 

Meeting a Group Socially

Knowing BBR is very powerful if you’re approaching a group or a couple already engaged in conversation. Let’s say you’re going to join the group of people talking in the photo above we used for the quiz. If you’re interested in identifying and talking with the most popular person in the group, by simply adding up who has the most navels pointed at her/him, you’ll have a good indication. Or, let’s say you’re running on CP time, you’ve arrived to the cocktail party late, and you want to quickly get in the mix (and not stand by yourself). Therefore, you’ll want to find the easiest person to chat up and that person is most likely going to be the person with their navel pointed away from the person they’re talking with – this person is looking for an out and you could be their rescue.

 

Lastly, remember that BBR is not simply about having more awareness. I want you to use it to also create more influence in the conversations you have. For example, BBR is a skill President Bill Clinton has down to a science and he uses it to create stronger connections. Check out any video of him engaging a crowd and you’ll see exactly what I mean. When he walks up to someone, he points his… (insert jokes here if you must) navel directly at the person he’s talking or shaking hands with. So simple yet so effective! When these same people are later surveyed or asked about President Clinton, they mostly state how they felt like he gave them his undivided attention and really connected with them. What Clinton did is something the most adept politicians and public figures learn and it’s something I encourage you to learn, as well. The next time you engage with someone (and this is especially true for my fellow introverts because we’re often thought to be aloof), make sure to keep your navel focused on the person at all times. They will feel your focus and better receive the message you’re attempting to communicate.

 

That’s it.

 

Get out there and get your BBR on!

 

Answers from Photo Quiz Above:

  1. Identify the person who has the least interest in their conversation? Not interested in his conversation is the gentleman in the brown jacket (second from the right). This is clear because his belly button is not only pointed away from the person he’s in conversation with, it’s also directed away from anyone in the group. His interest is to get away from the person he’s with as fast as possible.
  2. Identify the most popular person? The person with the most interest is the young lady in the white shirt on the left side talking with the two gentleman. This is clear because both men have pointed their navels towards her direction (opposed to at each other or away from their conversation).

 

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10 Most Outrageous Myths About Men We All Believe

10 Most Outrageous Myths About Men We All Believe

Before clients of my agency begin the matchmaking phase, we first put them through several weeks of intensive coaching. Our focus during this pre-match time is to share effective dating strategies, review recent research, and most importantly, dispel myths! Over the years, I’ve heard just about everything, and I mean everythang! The following are the top 10 myths our female clients believed to be truths.

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What Do Men (Really) Like?!: 6 Things Men of Substance Value Most

“Troy, I just don’t get it! What do men like?”

I could sense the frustration in her voice as she asked the question. She was just like a woman you may know – one who is frustrated with dating. She is exhausted from the games, tired of the lack of consistency, and worn out from men wanting to give her everything sexual but without commitment!

To her, the men people said were supposed to be so “simple” have turned into physics, accounting, and statistics all at the same time.

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Well, the truth is that I can’t tell you what men like because men like different things, but I can tell you (based on my thousands of conversations) 6 things men of substance VALUE most!

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Know Your Roles: Laymates, Playmates & Soulmates

Know Your Roles: Laymates, Playmates & Soulmates

Throughout the many conversations I’ve had with friends and family surrounding relationships, one trend was quite evident – it’s difficult to recognize the role someone’s playing in your life until far too late.

We usually meet someone, date for a brief or extended period of time (which could include marriage), and then after the relationship has run its proverbial course, we reflect on it to discover the warnings we discarded and the fatal flaws we dismissed.

Based on a snapshot of the dating world, here are the 3 roles I’ve seen most prevalently: Laymates, Playmates, and Soulmates.

Now, let’s discuss the differences between the three…

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Do You Suffer From “Type Hype?”: How To (Really) Find Your Match

Do You Suffer From “Type Hype?”: How To (Really) Find Your Match

Remember the popular, satirical YouTube video called “(Authentic) Black Marriage Negotiations”? Well, if not, to refresh your memory: the wildly popular video featured a computer generated image of a Black woman listing all the things she wanted in a man.


The clip was loathed by the many, but there were some who liked the video. It gained my attention because it tapped into what has been a big issue in my work.

[inlinetweet prefix=”#TypeHype |” tweeter=”@paulcbrunson” suffix=””]People are often unable to tell values from wants.[/inlinetweet] Often, these people suffer from “Type Hype.” But, what’s the fix?

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4 Reasons Why a Love Without “Scandal” Is Healthier

4 Reasons Why a Love Without “Scandal” Is Healthier

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years, you know about hit ABC’s drama, Scandal and its constantly conflicted main character, Olivia Pope.

Olivia Pope is a self-described “fixer” – a woman who, along with her team of associates, can make just about anyone come out of the biggest controversies smelling like a rose (whether they created the problems themselves or were thrust into them by happenstance). Except, ‘Liv…as everyone affectionately calls her, just can’t seem to “fix” her own beleaguered love life. Because, well…she’s having an affair with the President of the United States.

Scandal, now a nearly ubiquitous cultural mainstay, also has us talking about the state of relationships, and if the “drama” is worth it. Should we all want a “boring,” predictable kind of love, or an exciting one, rocked with drama and “scandal” (perhaps not of the affair-having variety)? Does the choice even have to be presented in such a dichotomous way?

Well, I think there’s 4 great reasons why a love without “scandal” is healthier…

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7 Reasons Why I Hate Valentine’s Day

I’m about to write the one post you would never expect a professional matchmaker to write. So, first, let me clarify that I was actually a matchmaker. Yes, that was my “real” job and one that I loved.

This time of year is the Super Bowl of my industry – lots of events, lots of media attention, lots of new client requests. You would think I should just shut my mouth and enjoy the ride. However, I can’t…because I hate Valentine’s Day.

Hate Valentine's Day

Yes, that’s how I truly feel and let me give you the 7 reasons why…

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15 Ways To Know If You’re Dating a Man or Boy

15 Ways To Know If You’re Dating a Man or Boy

Let’s be clear: not every boy becomes a man. When dating, knowing how to distinguish between the two will save you time, energy, money and even heartache.

Here are 15 ways you can separate the men from the boys

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4 Ways to Keep Social Media from Ruining Your Relationship

Social Media and Relationships

The following post is written by Troy Spry. Troy is a relationship coach and certified life coach. He is the creator of XKlusiveThoughts.com, a place dedicated to inspiring people to become their best selves. In addition to his website, you can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

“SOCIAL MEDIA HAS RUINED MY RELATIONSHIP!”

That’s the cry of many people today! But my response is this: social media didn’t ruin your relationship he, she, or BOTH of you may have played a part in the ruining of your relationship.

Let’s back up and come to an agreement: social media is here and it probably isn’t going anywhere.  So, we have to address this issue head on.  It is definitely possible for your relationship and (insert social media type here!) to happily co-exist. Here are 4 ways to keep social media from ruining your relationship:

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