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How to Become the Person Everyone Roots For

Good things don't just happen. They happen to people who hustle for them.

May 21, 2019 4 min read

This story appears in the June 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

We’ve all done it: We see someone score amazing attention, or win some award, or snag the perfect client, and we wonder, How’d they pull that off?

It can seem random. What do they have that we don’t? How did luck happen to break their way? I used to wonder this all the time. But now, after meeting so many entrepreneurs who have triumphed in so many ways, I see a pattern in their success. Here it is: They make it as easy as possible to be rewarded. They become the most responsive, most motivated person available. They become solution machines. They become impossible to not help.

That might sound obvious, but it’s not. It’s like a violation of physics! Remember Newton’s third law? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s similar to how we act. We’re asked to do something, and we do it. We’re asked for 15 minutes, and we give 15 minutes. Equal, opposite.

Related: To Succeed, Just Follow This Six-Step Plan

But now imagine another way. Imagine being asked for 15 minutes, and giving three hours. Imagine being asked for a few ideas, and giving an abundance of them. Imagine overdoing it in the best way, every time.

I now try to do this. I’ll give you an example. A few months ago, a radio producer named Becca Bressler emailed me. She works for the fantastic show Radiolab, and her team was developing a unique episode. They were soliciting interesting questions from interesting people, and then tracking down the answers to see if any of it led to a good radio story. She likes my podcast Pessimists Archive (which I was thrilled to hear), and thought I might have some good questions for her to explore.

Oh, did I. Here was my plan of attack: Respond immediately. Be helpful at all avenues. Make sure that I somehow get onto Radiolab, where a mention of my podcast would go a long way. (And also, because it would be fun and I love Radiolab.)

Related: The Best Way To Get What You Want? Focus On Your Customers' Needs.

First step: I got her email at, like, 10 p.m. and then sat on the couch for 45 minutes coming up with as many good questions as I could, even as my wife kept asking me to come to bed. Why? Because (a) I wanted to make the first impression that I was super-responsive, and (b) I didn’t want to risk having Becca walk into an ideas meeting at Radiolab without my ideas. What if she had a meeting the next morning? I didn’t know. Best to move fast.

Becca zeroed in on one of my questions. She wanted to interview me. I dropped everything to do it, set up a mic in my office, and gave her two different audio options. She mentioned offhand that she wanted to capture the sound of my room -- what’s called room tone -- but forgot to actually do it, so I did it myself and emailed her the file. As she researched her story, I provided experts I thought could be helpful…and one was. She had follow-up questions? I’m back on mic. She needs to get in touch? Here’s my cell -- text any time.

Related: The Best Employees Have Side Hustles -- Here's Why

In sum, I busted my ass so that Becca didn’t have to (which is not to say Becca doesn’t bust her ass). I knew she had a lot to juggle, so I wanted to make myself the absolute easiest part of her job. And the result? She created an awesome, awesome piece on Radiolab! Go find it -- it’s an episode called “Asking for a Friend,” and I appear at 21:54. Her mention of my podcast drove a ton of listeners. It worked. 

Hustle like this doesn’t guarantee success, but I do think it increases the chances, and that’s about as much control as you could ever hope to have. Just think about it for yourself: Aren’t you frustrated when someone doesn’t hustle to work with you? Aren’t you more likely to help the person who makes life easier? Now turn it around. Don’t just be the equal, opposite force. The equal force gets overlooked. Be the overwhelming force -- the wind at someone’s back. Move them toward you.

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