Category Archives: Networking

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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10 Things I Learned From a Legendary Director on How To Control a Room

10 Things I Learned From a Legendary Director on How To Control a Room

The moments before an interview, I have only one hope: that the person I’m interviewing won’t be an ass. Seriously, that’s it. I have the privilege of sitting down one-on-one mostly with people I’ve admired from afar – business leaders, artists, and change agents. But in a selfish move, to guard my memory of their work, I literally pray nothing will happen that will ruin my appreciation of them or their work.


So, when I sat down yesterday with legendary director Spike Lee for a one-on-one interview, I had the same hope. My memory of Spike goes back to his first feature length film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ and the one thing I’ve never seen him do over the years is stand down from an issue. With a personality like his, an interview can become complicated because it takes cooperation to make for a good question and answer session. There needs to be willingness from both the interviewer and the interviewee to give and take. A good interview is like watching a couple flawlessly tango.


With my single hope, I was focused on doing everything within my control to make my interview with Spike Lee good. As I awaited for him on the set, alongside a group of about a dozen people, I began to think about all the things I had learned over the years in order to direct the interview along the questions and themes I had researched about him. Someone then entered the room and said “Spike just arrived downstairs, he’ll be up in 3 minutes!” As the 3-minute countdown began in my head, I wasn’t nervous, I was in the zone. An edge of super confidence even came over me. I began to think, forget about this simply being good, I would show Spike Lee what a GREAT interview really was. Well, I was ROYALLY mistaken! Little did I know, in 3 minutes, I would get a master class from Spike Lee.


Now, less than a full day after the interview, I remain in awe of what I witnessed Spike do, effortlessly. The techniques he used should be studied and considered if you are seeking to quickly place yourself in a position of power in a room of strangers or in an interview.


Here are the 10 things I learned from the legendary director Spike Lee on how to control a room (and an interview).


1. Have a Powerful Preceding Reputation

This is much easier said than done, but it made an impact in the room so I have to mention it. Everyone knows who Spike Lee is and most would agree his brand conjures up thoughts of: intelligence, creativeness, and defiance against the status quo. These descriptors were already on our minds before he entered the room and so, it played a part in his perception once we saw him. Remember that your reputation always precedes you. Control your brand, before you even think about controlling the room.


2. Walk in the Room Boldly

The moment Spike entered the room, he didn’t stop walking until he landed at his interview chair. He moved with a sense of urgency. I’ve watched countless other power players do the same. Not hesitating when you break the room’s threshold gives the appearance of a true sense of purpose. When you enter a room, go to where you want to be and don’t let anything or anyone interfere with you. Spike sure didn’t.


3. Make Eye Contact With Everyone

As Spike walked to his chair, he appeared to be surveying the room. I didn’t quite understand it until I saw him sit down. He was actually making eye contact with everyone, individually. There were only about a dozen of us in the room and Spike connected with each person. Most people in the room simply got a quick glance and slight smile, and while appearing minor, these two actions were significant. One of the most important nonverbal signals people use to size you up and figure out your intent is your facial expression. A slight smile and eye contact suggests you’re approachable, but not overly eager.


4. Make it Clear You’re On a Tight Timetable

When Spike finished his room survey and sat down, he blurted out in a fun yet serious tone “Okay my people, let’s go, I have to be at ‘The Daily Show’ soon.” In just a few words, he put everyone on notice that we had a strict deadline. Psychologically, creating a sense of urgency is a master move of a power player. Urgency causes people to act quickly because you stop thinking about the unnecessary and only concentrate on the critical. So all those extra camera shots and scenes we wanted to get with Spike got thrown out the window, he gave us a new mission, just focus on the main interview. It was at this exact moment that I believe Spike “took control” of the room. He emerged as our leader (after only being in the room for a few minutes and uttering only a handful of words).


5. Reference Other Important Projects You’re Involved With

If you notice in the prior point, Spike mentioned “The Daily Show.” Was this by accident? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Strategically dropping a name is much different from bragging, with the latter being about your ego and the former being about the ego of those in the room with you. It’s critical to talk yourself up. Who else is going to do it? Especially when you’re working on important projects. It’s how you manage your brand and in cases like “controlling a room,” it works wonders. There we were, the Our World Black Enterprise staff (an amazing TV team that puts on a quality show but we have no where near the budget, audience, or brand of The Daily Show…at least, not yet :-)). So when Spike dropped such a high level brand, he added a sense of competitiveness to our urgency. This again was a great move. To be honest, it made me feel like I had to step up my game. I also felt humbled. Knowing my team and I were in the same media lineup of The Daily Show.


6. Be The First To Break The Ice

With Spike seated, it was my turn to take my place in the seat across from him. Once within eyesight, I gave him a smile, held out my hand and said “It’s an honor to meet you Mr. Lee.” I like to build a rapport with my interviewees before the start of the interview, so I was ready to launch into a pre-scripted ice breaker. I had prepared in my mind to ask Spike about the children’s book he and his wife wrote. Especially, since my family owns a copy of the book and I had recently read it to my little boys. But before I could get out my words, with laser quickness, Spike asked me “so, where did you go to school?” I responded, “Old Dominion for undergrad & Georgetown for grad.” He then immediately asked, which team I preferred. I answered “Georgetown.” As I finished pronouncing the “town” in Georgetown, he started with his next question about my thoughts on the basketball coach. Long story short, this dude completely flipped the script on me!!! He was leading our pre-interview session. Guiding it where he wanted, at his own pace. Spike broke the ice first. “Breaking the ice” is basically the initial dialogue you have with someone, just the first 1 or 2 exchanges. From what I’ve witnessed, whoever controls those first few exchanges, typically maintains control of the conversation going forward. In this case, Spike beat me to it. So after meeting him just seconds prior, before the camera even began to roll, the legendary director was already controlling the interview.


7. Use “Power” Body Language Moves

Once the official on air interview began (Spike yelled “Action”, by the way), I noticed something Spike was doing that I first mistook for coyness and later realized it was another masterful control move. We were both seated in swivel chairs and with the ease of a foot push, the chair would swivel from side to side. While I asked him questions, he sat in a squared off position with me – belly to belly. However, once my question was asked and we began to exchange on the topic, his foot would swivel his chair ever slightly away from me. From being someone who has studied body language for nearly a decade, I’m aware that the movement of someone’s belly button away from you suggests a disinterest but masterful Spike completely remixed this rule. He would focus on me, then move away, then focus on me again, then move away. It was very effective in making me feel as if at certain points I was losing his attention and therefore had to change the flow or subject in order to gain his attention back. He was making me work and controlling the topics of our conversation, by the slight push of his foot.


Another body language rule he used quite effectively was pointing his finger. However, instead of what you would typically think, that someone pointing a finger at you is offensive, Spike instead would point his finger upward. I’ve actually not seen that move since I was a little boy and my mother was telling me “no.” By the simple point of his finger as I was talking, it politely signaled for me to pause. It was ridiculously effective and didn’t feel as if he was being rude, at all. To experiment, I used the upward finger pointing move in 3 conversations since the interview and it’s like a magic wand. Whoever you’re talking to just automatically stops talking 🙂 (I suggest using this sparingly).


8. Use the Power Pause

Google any video interview of Spike and you’ll see he does something with his delivery that few people do, especially on a televised interview. He pauses, at will. On TV, at live events, on podcasts, any situation with time limitations, people normally don’t slow down, they actually speed up their cadence. Not only that, from advice I’ve received from some of the best TV producers in the business, the key with interviews is to talk succinctly and drop quick (verbal) bombs – this reasoning comes from the fact TV is sound bite driven so if you say something quick and clever, chances are it’ll make additional clips of the show (like a commercial tease). No person I’ve ever interviewed has defied this law, except Spike Lee. The funny thing is that a “power pause” is a technique many interviewers not interviewees use (I first learned about the power pause from watching Barbara Walters. She is notorious for asking a question, getting an answer, and not responding to the answer and like magic, the interviewee sensing the silence, delves deeper in their answer and gives up something they hadn’t shared before). So with the power pause at his disposal, Spike had another tool to control the conversation.


9. Don’t Use Fillers…Ever.

Spike delivered a filler free interview. The bottom line is that the use of “umm,” “yeah,” “like,” etc., destroys the appearance of confidence in your subject matter as well as yourself.


10. Make No Apologies

Name drop coming in 3, 2, 1…I remember Oprah telling me that every person she ever interviewed asked her the same question afterwards, “How did I do?” Over the past 2 years, having interviewed about 60 very prominent artists, business leaders, and change agents, that same question came up, as well. Inevitably, at some point after the interview, the interviewee would lean in close to me, nearly whispering and ask, “Paul, how did I do?” Yesterday, the streak ended. When our interview wrapped, Spike wished my Georgetown basketball team well, thanked me for the interview, and that was that. He gave not even the slight appearance of concern for my impression of the quality of his interview. I respect that. It’s like Kobe Bryant walking off the court and asking someone “was my game okay?” Power players don’t need a confirmation – they know if they crushed it or got crushed. Now, is feedback important? Of course it is. But if your primary goal is to control the room, what’s the need for feedback when you already know you’re a legend.

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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.




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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The BIGGEST Yet Easiest To Fix Social Media Mistake We Make

On March  27th I tweeted this:

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24 hours later, I tweeted this:

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3 hours later, I received this tweet:

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My point is simple.

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13 Tips to Build Your Personal Brand and Platform


Whether we like it or not, everyone has a personal brand. That’s right, from Obama to Diddy to your mailman to your grandmother, we all have one.

Brand is defined many ways but to me it is simply “what you say when you can’t say anything.” In other words, it’s your reputation.

If you have a desire to say or sell something, not only is your personal brand incredibly important but so is your platform. Think of your brand and platform like a message and bullhorn, respectively.

In the last six years I have been very methodical about building my personal brand and growing my platform. While I still have work to do, I’m proud of the progress made (top 1% in the world for influence in my industry, several million dollars in earned revenue, significant media penetration, and a social network of over 700,000 people).

The following are 13 lessons I’ve learned along the way in the discovery, growth, and management of my personal brand and platform.


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It’s Called “Networking” Not “Using”

Daily. Seriously, every single day, I receive a message like the following:

“Hi Paul, I’m working on an incredible new project. Can you introduce me to Oprah so I can pitch it to her for funding?”


I wonder do they really expect my reply to be:

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Proven Ways To Meet Someone New

Proven Ways To Meet Someone New

Everyday I schedule time to respond to questions on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a very interesting part of my day because I never know what I’ll be asked. The questions range from what you would imagine is typical: “Do all men cheat?” While some are more outrageous and crazy: “Paul, what do you do with your clipped toe nails?” (Answers: 1) the most extensive studies on infidelity and marriage suggest the majority of men do not cheat. 2) I collect my nails in a silk satchel and put them under my pillow at night… just kidding!)

Recently, something stood out in the questions. Several people asked, “How can I meet someone new?” I found this interesting because normally I get the question of “Where can I meet someone new?” Typically it’s not “how.” For the record, I like “how” much better because there’s not one spot where you can absolutely find a partner.

The key to meeting “the one” is in the expansion of your social circle. It’s important to remember that the number one way, over the last 100 years, that women and men meet for marriage has been through family and friends. And, while you can’t expand your family, you can expand your friendship circles.

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