Genius Network founder Joe Polish met the world famous entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson for the first time at a dinner to raise money for Richard’s foundation, Virgin Unite.  Joe had donated $15,000 to Richard’s charity.  “In exchange, Joe was invited to have dinner with Richard and a small group of other donors,” write Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy in Who Not How.

During the dinner, the other donors were focused on extracting as much value as they could from Richard.  Joe had a different strategy.  His goal was to provide value to Richard.

“Joe shared an idea with him that involved distributing a video that would educate people about Virgin Unite and its cause in hopes of increasing donations,” Dan and Ben write.  “Joe explained to Richard how utilizing education-based marketing could take Virgin Unite’s message to the whole world.  And if people understood more about the organization, they would be more likely to support it via their time, efforts, and contributions.”

Richard was impressed.  He asked Joe if he would put his idea into writing.  He then gave Joe his personal email address.

“I believe I’m the only one who got Richard’s email that evening,” recalls Joe.

Fast forward to today.  “Richard has spoken at several of Joe’s events, and Joe has traveled to Richard’s private island (Necker Island) multiple times,” the authors write.  “Indeed, Joe has spent a lot of time with Richard.  All of this happened without Joe even asking for Richard’s time.  Instead, Joe was useful and someone Richard easily wanted to be around.”

And “Joe’s altruism didn’t stop there,” note Dan and Ben.  “After he gave Richard that idea, he then asked if he could interview Jean Oelwang, the person running Virgin Unite, so that Joe could promote the interview to his contacts, subscribers, and fans.

“Through this interview with Jean, many more people were educated about Virgin Unite and inspired to get involved.  In fact, at one of Richard’s “Rock the Kasbah” gala fund-raisers, 92 people came as a result of Joe and his Genius Network and each person made a $2,500 contribution to Virgin Unite.  During the auction held that night, many of Joe’s [guests] bought items to support Virgin Unite.  Joe has become Richard’s single largest fund-raiser, having raised millions of dollars for the charity.”

What’s the lesson here?

Instead of asking, “What’s in it for me?” Joe always asks, “What’s in it for them?”  

There is a reason both Forbes and Inc. magazines call Joe “the most connected man in business.” He understands that transformational relationships begin by learning what the other person cares about.  We do our homework.  What are their goals?  Then, we figure out ways to add real value and immediate results.

“Asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ is a terrible way to get access to people.  It is impossible to create transformational relationships with this selfish ‘taker’ mind-set,” write Dan and Ben.  

And it’s not a one-time action.  We never stop providing value, especially to those who have been part of our lives for a long time.  That is how Joe shows up in life, and it is the ethos of his Genius Network: “To successfully navigate Joe’s network, and really, in order to be successful with high-level people in general, you’ve got to understand how genuine connection and transformational relationships work,” write Dan and Ben.

We must approach relationships in a transformational rather than a transactional way.  If we are “useful, and continue being generous, the world will be very good to [us],” Dan and Ben write.  Once we “understand this higher level, strategic, and conscious way of approaching relationships, we’ll be able to connect with basically anyone.”

Not only that, but we also “grow as a person in dramatic and often unexpected ways.”


Reflection: Who is someone I want to connect with?  What are their goals?  How can I provide value?

Action: Do it.

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