Alex Banayan (@alexbanayan) is the author of The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers, which chronicles his seven-year quest tracking down icons from Bill Gates to Lady Gaga to uncover how they broke through and launched their careers.
What We Discuss with Alex Banayan:
- What Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, Maya Angelou, Steve Wozniak, and Jane Goodall all have in common.
- The role of luck in success (it’s probably not what you think).
- Why mentors are important (and the mistakes people make when trying to find one).
- How you can reach out to potential mentors even if you don’t have a connection in common to make the introduction.
- How Alex hacked The Price Is Right to fund this book venture and his speaking career.
- And much more…
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After one-on-one interviews with Bill Gates, Maya Angelou, Steve Wozniak, Jane Goodall, Larry King, Jessica Alba, Pitbull, Tim Ferriss, Quincy Jones, and many more, The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers author Alex Banayan discovered the one key they have in common: they all took the Third Door.
In this episode, Alex shares the story of his journey to track down these hard-to-reach people, what he learned from them about the role of luck and mentors in success, and the missteps and course corrections he made along the way. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
Most people wait until they’re a little wisened by the trials of time and experience to have a mid-life crisis, but Alex Banayan wasn’t a typical 18-year-old college freshman. Adrift with no clear direction for the future, he pondered what set the course for his heroes when they were in his shoes.
“How did Bill Gates sell his first piece of software out of his dorm room when nobody knew his name?” wondered Alex. “How did [Steven] Spielberg become the youngest director in Hollywood history without a single hit under his belt?”
Piles of self-help and business books didn’t give Alex the answers he sought, so he decided to go about writing the book he wished existed — and the seed of the idea that became The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers was planted.
A Simple Belief Becomes a Seven-Year Quest
At the time, Alex naively figured interviewing and getting material from a few of his favorite world-changing icons would be something to fill the gap between freshman and sophomore years. The reality turned out to be more time-consuming than he had anticipated.
“I just had this very simple belief that if all these people came together, not for press, not to promote anything, but really just to share their best wisdom with the next generation, young people could do so much more,” says Alex. “So that was really the guiding belief that helped me go through this seven year journey — because it took two years to get to Gates, three years for Lady Gaga — so it’s really been this long quest.”
The Role of Luck In Success
There’s no denying that luck plays a role in anyone’s success — even being born in the right place at the right time can have the relative impact of winning the lottery.
It’s almost impossible to imagine that Bill Gates wouldn’t have enjoyed some level of success on the strength of his ambition alone, but having access to computers in their nascency gave him an edge that few others before or since would be able to exploit, and it made him a billionaire 90 times over.
But it was in conversation with then-Microsoft executive Qi Lu that gave Alex a real understanding of luck’s role in success.
Qi Lu had grown up in a village outside of Shanghai, China that was so poor there was only one teacher per 300 children and people developed deformities from malnutrition. Being very smart and working very hard, Qi was making seven dollars a month by the time he was 27. Like so many other smart, hard workers in China, he dreamed of a better life in America — so he needed an advantage over the competition.
Studying the sleeping patterns of Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and other famously prolific geniuses, Qi figured out a way to squeeze an extra two months of productivity out of every year by only requiring four hours of sleep per day.
As luck would have it, Qi had the opportunity to speak to a Carnegie Mellon professor lecturing at his local university. The professor had been so impressed by the questions he was asking and the papers he had written about the professor’s area of expertise that Qi was offered a full scholarship to Carnegie Mellon.
How did luck play into it? Under normal circumstances, Qi would have ridden his bicycle to visit his parents on that particular night of the week — but it was raining, so he had stayed on campus, attended the lecture, and happened to be the most well-informed scholar in the room on the topic at hand. Thanks to his extra months of productivity, he was prepared when opportunity knocked.
To Alex, Qi imparted this nugget of wisdom: “Luck is like a bus. If you miss one, there will always be the next one. But if you aren’t prepared, you won’t be able to get on.”
This encouraged Alex to do a little more digging into the science of luck, and from the research, it seems one thing is clear: luck is a mindset, not a phenomenon.
“There are studies that show that people who define themselves as lucky actually do get luckier, because their mind is more tuned in to spotting opportunities,” says Alex. “They keep themselves open to possibilities. It’s an internal narrative…that actually has real-world outcomes.”
The Tim Ferriss Cold Email Template
Thanks to advice from people like The 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss, Alex learned how to connect with traditionally busy and hard-to-reach people — which is how The Third Door managed to publish at 320 pages rather than 20. Here’s the simple but effective cold email template Tim shared with Alex.
I know you’re really busy and that you get a lot of emails, so this will only take sixty seconds to read.
[Here is where you say who you are: add one or two lines that establish your credibility.]
[Here is where you ask your very specific question.]
I totally understand if you’re too busy to respond, but even a one or two-line reply would really make my day.
All the best,
[Your Name Here]
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how we can cultivate a “lucky” mindset, the mistakes people make in search of a mentor (and how to avoid the mistakes Alex has already made), what you can do to prove to a potential mentor that you’re worth their time, the exponential value of finding a mentor who doesn’t live in the limelight, the value you provide to an ideal mentor, how to reverse engineer what an ideal mentor-mentee relationship might look like, how Alex hacked The Price is Right to finance his seven-year quest to write The Third Door, and lots more.
THANKS, ALEX BANAYAN!
If you enjoyed this session with Alex Banayan, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers by Alex Banayan
- Alex Banayan’s Website
- Alex Banayan at Facebook
- Alex Banayan at Twitter
- Alex Banayan at Instagram
- Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert H. Frank
- Former Microsoft Executive Qi Lu Steps Down as Baidu COO by Jordan Novet, CNBC
- This Researcher Reveals How Lucky People Differ from Unlucky People by Melissa Chu, Inc.
- The Emotion Behind Invention with Dean Kamen at TEDMED 2009
- The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
- Does the James Arthur Ray Trial Mean There’s No Law of Attraction? by Meryl Davids Landau, HuffPost
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- Big Questions with Cal Fussman
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
- USC Student Is Big Winner on Game Show by Rachel Bracker, Daily Trojan
Transcript for Alex Banayan | Why Mentors Are Important and How to Get One (Episode 49)
Alex Banayan: [00:00:00] Luck is like a bus. If you're not prepared, the next one's going to show up if you're standing at the right bus stop, but your preparation is your fee to get onto that bus. If you don't have it, no matter how many times you wait at that bus stop, you won't be able to get on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:16] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. On this episode, we're talking with Alex Banayan, author of The Third Door, which chronicles Alex larger than life journey tracking down Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, Maya Angelou, Steve Wozniak, and dozens more of the world's most successful people to essentially uncover how they broke through and launched their careers. This is a kid who just went after it and got in touch with these amazing folks. We'll talk about the role of luck in success.
[00:00:45]It's probably not what you think. We'll also discuss the role of mentors, why they're important, how to get one. Mistakes people make when they try to make that happen, which also includes some cold outreach scripts to help you with that here. And we'll wrap without Alex hacked the game show The Price is Right in order to fund this whole book venture, which has since launched his speaking career. This is a really unique way of making things happen for himself here. Of course, we have worksheets just like we do for every episode. Those were at jordanharbinger.com/podcast, and the fee of course for this show and every show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which is hopefully every episode, and the worksheets are how we make sure that. All right, here's Alex Banayan.
[00:01:26] I think it just takes like the previous generation does not do what we do, Alex, where we're like, “I want to start a business, let me call Bill Gates.” They're like, “Oh, I have to research it and think about it and do all this, I have to plan for it.” And a year younger than me, probably even previous generation, you're probably gen Z, you guys eating freaking tide pods and stuff. But like—
Alex Banayan: [00:01:49] Oh God, I hope not.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:51] But like our generation and yours, maybe it's just the entrepreneur people that I'm surrounded by. But I feel like people go, you know it'd be pretty cool if I got into wilderness photography and then a week later they're in Antarctica with a DSLR, and an Instagram account.
Alex Banayan: [00:02:07] They've updated their bio and their website, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:10] Yeah, yeah. And then you're like, “Oh, you just went ahead and did that.” And that has its pluses and minuses, but that's a good segue into the show because it sounds like you kind of have a little bit of that as well. Tell us how you got into what you got into, you decided to just call Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, Maya Angelou and Woz, and go, I have a question, call me back when you get a chance.
Alex Banayan: [00:02:36] Well to my surprise, Bill Gates doesn't normally call back 18 year olds. So that was a very crushing realization.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:44] I bet that surprise you, while chewing on a tide pod waiting for this call. Where is he? It's been like an hour.
Alex Banayan: [00:02:52] So the very basic idea in the beginning was very naive, which was I was going through this life crisis. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life and I had no idea how all these people who I looked up to, how they did it. How did Bill Gates sell his first piece of software out of his dorm room when nobody knew his name? Or how did Spielberg become the youngest director in Hollywood history without a single hit under his belt? Those are the things that they don't normally teach you in school, so I just went through a bunch of books looking for answers and after piles of self-help books and business books, eventually I was left empty handed. And like you guys said, that's when I had this very naive thought of, well, if no one's going to write the book I'm dreaming of reading, why not just write it myself? And I thought I could just call up Bill Gates, interview him, interview everyone else, I'll be done in a few months, and I'd be ready for sophomore year of college.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:48] Right. That's how this show works too. “Hey man, let me know when you're ready.”
Alex Banayan: [00:03:53]Has Bill been much more receptive to you? Because he wasn't to me in the beginning.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:57] Yeah, we're still working on it. The thing that's funny about that is people who start shows go, “Hey, how do I get the guests on?” And I'm like, “You've just covered 90 percent of my problem.” You've just covered 80 percent of the work that my team does when you're not looking.
Alex Banayan: [00:04:13] And you know it better than anyone. It's such a timing trick too, right? Because maybe let's say you want to get Tony Robbins on your show. Maybe there's a one week period per year where he wants to be on every podcast, and you're like packed that one week. So it's such a tricky timing thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:31] Yeah, I can see that. But I would imagine people like Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, they don't have PR windows because they don't need it. And universally it's a waste of time for people in that a position.
Alex Banayan: [00:04:46] I'm very happy we're having this conversation now and not when I was starting because if we had this conversation when I was starting, I may never have written this book because the reason I got going is because I thought this would be a really simple idea. I just had this very simple belief that if all these people came together, not for press, not to promote anything, but really just to share their best wisdom with the next generation, young people can do so much more. So that was really the guiding belief that helped me go through this seven year journey. Because it took two years to get to Gates, three years for Lady Gaga. So it's really been this really long quest.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:28] All right, well I definitely want to back up and get into how you got these folks of course, and some of the how to. But I know that you learned some other meta lessons when it came to this, including the role that luck plays in some of these people's success. Did you get any insight there? We did a show about the role that luck plays in success a long time ago, and the take away kind of was, well lucks play a role when everybody’s success. But one, we don’t see it most of the time because it's kind of this factor that operates in the background. And two, even if we do see it, we don't want to go, hey, you know, it was really lucky? Me stumbling into this and being interested in this at this time when nobody else was and having their own sources at my fingertips, and then starting a company and getting a corporate gig that then spilled over into like, you hear that about Microsoft a lot as well because the role that luck played was, yes these guys are brilliant, yes they were interested in it, but they had access to a computer in I don't know, the ‘70s or something like that. And then they snuck in and they would stay there all night so they'd get six months of work done in two days, and they did that for years. And then they started a company when everyone went, “Hey, how about those computer things?” It's helping us work a hundred times faster. And they were the only game in town for a while.
Alex Banayan: [00:06:42] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:42] So what else did you take away from this? Other than Bill Gates got lucky, but hey, he returned your calls so we're friends with them. I mean I assume you got, I assume you got some really good insight into this because I know that you asked about it.
Alex Banayan: [00:06:54] So luck, I think everything that you just played out about the debate of luck, both sides actually have very valid arguments. And it wasn't until I met this man, his name is Qi Lu, that I really understood the role luck plays in success. So this guy, no one's heard of him. He grew up in a village outside of Shanghai, China with no running water, no electricity. People were so poor that they had deformities from malnutrition. And we think our education system is bad in America, but in his village, for every 300 kids there was one teacher.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:39] Yikes.
Alex Banayan: [00:07:40] Right. So you probably couldn't count on luckier hand to be dealt, but you know, Qi was very smart and worked really hard. And by age 27 was making the most money he had ever earned seven dollars a month.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:54] I was going to say it was like two bucks a day or something?
Alex Banayan: [00:07:57] And that's seven dollars a month, and to understand it took six dollars just to live and survive himself. And then that one extra dollar, he would send back to his parents in the village.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:08] Oh man.
Alex Banayan: [00:08:09] Now fast forward 20 years later, and he's a president at Microsoft. And I sat down with him and the story is no one knows the story because Qi Lu believes that every hour he talks to a journalist is an hour he's not contributing back to the world. He's that kind of guy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:25] And you're like thankfully I'm a teenager, not a journalist. So you were okay.
Alex Banayan: [00:08:29] You know, that's actually why he did the interview because I was a college student. I was 18 years old. And I sat there trying to understand their have to be some crazy luck in his story. And I actually found out there was. So Qi Lu realized that there are so many brilliant, brilliant young people in China who are all dying to get the same one dream, which was to go to America to study in an American university. And Qi knew that relying on just talent alone was idiotic. He needed to create a system to give himself an edge. So he went to the library and started researching all these famous people in history who had re-engineered their sleep patterns, DaVinci and Thomas Edison and he realizes, he needs to create his own system. Because his thinking is that if he's spending eight hours in bed like everyone else, if he can find a way to cut that down, that will give him months of productivity per year.
[00:09:30] And he eventually creates a system where he can, in his words function just as well using four hours of sleep. But he creates what he calls Qi time, which added two months of productivity per year. And finally, one Sunday night when he was in college, a visiting professor from Carnegie Mellon was at the university to give a guest lecture, and it was a Sunday night. And normally on Sunday nights, Qi rides his bike back to his village to visit his parents. But because it was raining, that was the first Sunday night he was ever in his dorm room in years, or in months. And a friend knock on the door, asked Qi to come down to fill the seats, and Qi goes down there, and during the lecture the professor compliments him going, asking such good questions. And at the end of the lecture he asked Qi, if he had done any research on the topic?
[00:10:27] Qi hadn't done some research. He had written five entire papers on the topic, and that's the power of Qi time. He was not only the most prepared person in the room, he was miles ahead of everyone else. So the professor asked to see the papers, he runs to his dorm room, gets them, they're like sitting on his desk. He runs back, gives them to the professor on the spot. The professor starts reading them, he asks Qi if he's ever wanted to come to America and study, and Qi tells him it's his biggest dream, but he can't afford to take the entrance exams because the one dollar a month he makes extra goes to his parents. On the spot, the professor offers to waive the fees, and two months later, Qi gets a letter saying that he got a full ride to Carnegie Mellon.
[00:11:13] Now, on the one hand, that's probably one of the luckiest stories I've ever heard because every Sunday, religiously he leaves campus to go visit his parents. The only Sunday that he was there, so happened to be the day that Carnegie Mellon professor was there. But on the other hand, there was nothing lucky about him being the only one in the room who had done five research papers on that topic.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:36] This isn’t really the role that luck plays for a lot of people, people think, oh, this guy just happened to be at this university, and then the professor walked in and said, hey, I need a research assistant for this virtual reality thing I'm going to try out, or this Internet thing that I think is going to be a hit, and he's the only person who takes the gig, because he has no other choice. That's the luck that I think most people are envisioning in their head.
Alex Banayan: [00:12:01] And I've never in seven years of studying this, not a single person who I interviewed, ever had that fantasy of luck that for some reason, movies and television propagate.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:12] Yeah, it's not Good Will Hunting where he's like—
Alex Banayan: [00:12:14] It's never like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:15] Drawing on the Blackboard and the math professor walks by and goes, by golly, you're correct. That's not what happens. What happens is this guy was so damn prepared. Then when his opportunity did arrive, he went, “Oh yeah, I just happened to have a stack of qualifications.” Now the opportunity, the timing happened to be fortuitous, but had he not had a stack of paper as he just would have been the guy putting out and filling the chairs.
Alex Banayan: [00:12:42] Bingo. Yeah. And what the quote Qi Lu told me in the interview, he said luck is like a bus. If you're not prepared, the next one's going to show up. If you're standing at the right bus stop. But your preparation is your fee to get onto that bus. If you don't have it, no matter how many times you wait at that bus stop, you won't be able to get on. And that's exactly what you were saying, which is all of these lucky moments are sort of serendipitously happening around us. We just never are prepared to make it happen. And that sort of sent me down a track to study the science of luck. There are scientific studies that show why some people do get quote unquote luckier over and over and over again while some never get a break.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:26] So yeah, let's actually hear the science because this is a show filled to the brim with geeks like me who would love to hear why this is a qualified opinion instead of just a gen X and gen Z are rapping about getting in touch with Bill Gates once.
Alex Banayan: [00:13:41] Absolutely.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:41] Tell us about the science of luck that you've encountered. Because I would imagine at that point you went, hold on, hold on, hold on. There's more to this and I want my shred of luck and I want to be ready for it when it hits me in the lab or the face.
Alex Banayan: [00:13:55] Exactly. So yeah, so after I spoke to Qi Lu, I sort of became obsessed with understanding how luck works from a scientific background. And what I uncovered was this one study which I found fascinating, and this study sort of went like this. They got a sample group of people and gave them all the same assignment. They gave them a newspaper and they said, you have X amount of minutes. Let's say you have 10 minutes to find how many times the word, for example, dog is in this newspaper. Go. Everyone had the exact same assignment with the exact same newspaper. Before the study started though they gave each person a questionnaire of like 20 random questions. And one of the questions is, do you consider yourself as lucky? And no one in this study knew what the study was for. And what they found out is that all the people who said they consider themselves lucky, disproportionally got the right answer of how many times the word dog is used in the newspaper. And the reason is on I think second or third page of the newspaper, there was a headline that said, the word dog is use 63 times in this newspaper today.
[00:15:10] And the point of that study is that people, and there's multiple studies of different variations of this, and they all have the same conclusion, which is people who tell themselves and have a narrative in their head that they're lucky, see the world in a different way. And the way they see the world is they keep themselves open to possibilities. It's an internal narrative that you tell yourself that actually has real world outcomes in your career.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:42] So when you say open to possibilities, I mean, look, I'm open to possibilities. Nobody listening to this is going to go, “Oh, that's my problem.” I've been closed off to possibility the entire time, right? Everyone's going to say, “Of course, I'm open to possibility. Who isn't?” So what are these people who believe that they are lucky naturally? What are they doing differently? Because no one's going to say, I don't believe that I'm open to possibilities. But some people definitely believe that they're not lucky. In fact, a lot of people believe that they are unlucky, but I don't really understand what the behavioral changes. They might believe that it's like you said, luck is like lightning. It doesn't strike once. It's like a bus that comes by over and over as Qi Lu taught you. But what are they doing differently for real?
Alex Banayan: [00:16:26] Okay, so there's two ways to go about this. There's the natural default way where happens to you, and then there's a way that you can try to make a change yourself. The first one, how some people even as kids think they're lucky, it's for one reason. And Dean Kamen, one of the greatest inventors alive, when I had interviewed him, told me what it is, and he calls it the internal bias.
[00:16:52] And what that means is that when people are young for reasons that actually don't have much logical standing, they create this internal bias of a narrative they tell them. Let's say they went to a school where all the kids were really crappy at basketball, and they tried off of the basketball team and they got on the team. They're not actually good at basketball, just the circumstances allowed them to get on the team, but they now created this narrative in their head subconsciously, I'm really good at something. I'm really good at basketball. If I try out for the team, I'll win. So that internal bias actually really makes a huge difference. We can't go back to our childhood. So let's push that to the side. How can someone who doesn't see themselves lucky or wants to be more lucky actually make a difference in their life today? What's the practical approach? So there's a book called The Magic of Thinking Big, where the author talks about creating memory banks.
[00:17:48]And it's essentially the same concept as Dean Kamen’s internal bias, which is if you train your brain to rewire the narrative that you have about yourself, it actually works. And the way you do that is, if someone here listening wants to actually make a difference to make themselves feel luckier. What I would tell them is for the next 30 days, every night, spend 10 minutes with a journal, journaling a new story every night, have a moment in their life where they were incredibly lucky and what the circumstances were surrounding that situation. And at the end of the 30 days, whether they're conscious of it or not, there will be a subtle change in the way they see themselves, which will affect outcomes in the future.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:38] Okay, so what we do is we basically convince ourselves that we are lucky by continually writing narratives about how we are lucky.
Alex Banayan: [0 0:18:45] Correct. And the whole thing is you're subconsciously convincing yourself and there's a huge difference because try to constantly convince yourself of something doesn't, I've tried it, I've tried to convince myself to like get rid of my insecurities. It doesn't work.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:58] Oh yeah. Now we've all been there. I mean, that's why I had a job for 11 years on the old show because I was going, “Hey, you can't just tell yourself to be confident.” It's like telling yourself to get taller. It doesn't work.
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[00:21:15]This episode is sponsored in part by The Great Courses Plus. It's a good product. Being successful professionally and personally. As you know, it requires constant learning. That's what I'm all about. That's what Jason's all about. That's what we're all about here on the Jordan Harbinger Show. You can sharpen your skills. You got to sharpen your skills, get understand more about the world around you, and that's what's so great about The Great Courses Plus other than the name. They got tons of courses, top experts, professors and experts. Anything that interests you, I challenge you to find something they don't have. They got business history, science, how to write, take better photos, watch or listen anywhere. You can listen on the app, you don't need to watch the video, which is great. I love that update. New course, thinking like an economist, a guide to rational decision making. You could improve your day to day decision making using the practical principles and analytical tools of top economists such as optimizing decisions you make by better understanding the motivations of those around you.
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Jason DeFillippo: [00:22:39] I do believe that is thegreatcoursesplus.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:43] All right.
Alex Banayan: [00:22:45] The subconscious does respond to stories. This is why going to therapy and journaling have such huge impacts on people's lives. It's not magic. The subconscious really responds to writing out and speaking stories.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:00] I can see why this works as well because when you journal something, or when you continually tell yourself a narrative or develop a narrative for yourself, look, “I'm really lucky. Look at this lucky thing that happened today.” It's the same thing that happened when I started, well similar to what happened when I started editing my own show, 11 plus years ago, maybe even longer. Where I would edit out the ums and the uhs, and then I would consciously get rid of those in my current speech because I knew subconsciously I was going to have to edit it out later on anyway, and so if you're telling yourself um, I was so lucky today of this happened. I was so lucky today that happened. You're going to be looking for those opportunities to tell yourself that you're lucky regardless of how that opportunity came about. So you could probably tell yourself that you also are really good at spotting opportunity and I bet you that it would have the same effect.
Alex Banayan: [00:23:49] It absolutely would. And one of the key things to that exercise that I think a lot of people mess up on, is they don't understand how important the repetitiveness is. I have a lot of people who've I've told this principle to who come back to me a year later like it didn't work. And I'm like, well how many times did you do that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:06] I tried it all weekend.
Alex Banayan: [00:24:07] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:08] For both days.
Alex Banayan: [00:24:09] I did it a couple of weekends in a row. I'm like, the whole point is it needs to be night after night after night for a significant amount. Like in the minimum would be 30 days. I would really recommend, 60 days or a hundred days if you want to make a giant difference in your life. But 30 days is the minimum.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:25] You need to convince your brain that no matter what happens, you have all of this opportunity falling in your lap to the point where it's just ridiculous. If you just try it a couple of times and you have to rack your brain both times it’s not going to work.
Alex Banayan: [00:24:37] Exactly, and what I've learned is that when you change what you believe is possible, you change what becomes possible, and there's a science to it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:44] Yeah, I mean it has its limitations, but I definitely agree when it comes to luck or opportunity, that convincing yourself to have that internal bias where you can spot it, that internal narrative that you're lucky, that you're successful inclines you to actually try more for first place.
Alex Banayan: [00:24:58] And that's like getting more lottery tickets.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:00] Right, right, yeah. Yeah, okay, interesting. I like the idea of creating that internal bias and I love the idea of doing it via journal. It's cheap. It's very effective to do things like this. In fact, I did this when I was learning German. I started journaling when I lived overseas, and I remember writing all of this negative stuff that I didn't like, and my attitude was really poor. And then when I decided I'm not going to, I'd found this by accident because I didn't want to read that journal in 20 years and go, what a little shit. I can't believe how negative I was. I wanted to create a narrative where I was at least having fun. So I started looking on the bright side, even on terrible days and I would always end the journal entries on a high note.
[00:25:39] And what started happening was I started looking at each day and going today sucked, well actually this other thing happened. It was good. Oh, there's another thing that happened that was good, and I started to program my narrative of being abroad in Germany, and going, actually most of the things that happened to me are good. I'm just letting one or two pieces of homesickness ruined the entire thing, and it's kind of embarrassing. When you see things like that on paper, you can create an internal bias for pretty much anything as long as you're not trying to make magic, this isn't some BS law of attraction type of thing. It's really scientifically crafting a narrative for yourself that you eventually start to believe whether or not you are actually going to be successful in doing that, lies in the repetition and lies in the results.
Alex Banayan: [00:26:22] And you know, everyone sort of jokes about this whole law of attraction, like voodoo, whatever. It's just the unscientific term for what we're talking about, and it's a much less tangible and practical way to go about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:36]I have my own issues with the law of attraction thing, when people are trying to manifest for hours in their driveway while sitting on their couch watching Netflix, but I don't want to get into that whole mess. I mean there's a reason that some of those guys, there's a reason that you don't hear from those guys anymore, aside from the fact that one of them went to prison for, I think manslaughter if memory serves. Yeah, yeah, tangent that we don't need to go down that road. Yeah, exactly. That's right, Jason, Lambo, baby.
[00:27:04] All right, now going after these high profile interviews, interviewees, I should say, it's smacks of this kind of buzz words stuff that I'm getting in my inbox. I'm not saying this is what you did, but a lot of folks will write in and go, will you mentor me, how do I get a mentor? And whatever I hear that word, I kind of think like, okay, you've watched a lot of Tai Lopez videos or something because it's like a buzzword in the entrepreneur community, especially in the younger generation where it's like, “Oh, you don't have a mentor. You're never going to succeed because you need a sensei or something like this.” And I don't necessarily believe that, but I do believe in the power of having influential people helping you along, having people mentor you in different phases of your life. Can you discuss some of the mistakes people are making when they're trying to reach out and make this happen? Because I know that you've been through this process. In fact, that's probably in part how this whole thing started for you anyway.
Alex Banayan: [00:27:58] Yeah. The whole reason this journey worked is because of other people who are far more accomplished and far more wise than me for some reason trying to help. And throughout this book I've realized in the journey of making it happen, I made a ton of mistakes and in hindsight and able to sort of point them out and hopefully it helps other people who are on the journey. The biggest mistake by far, like there's not even a close second that people make, you actually just touched on. It specifically and explicitly asking someone to be your mentor. It's like if you're a woman and you see a guy that you like at a party saying, “Hey, would you be my husband?” It's just such a, you know, even if it's not a husband, “Hey, would you be my boyfriend?” They don't even know you, and you're asking them for a really big commitment. Because normally, Jordan, like people of your caliber have been helped by mentors and you understand that having a mentor is actually a very big, it's a real relationship.
[00:29:04] So for someone to be cold emailing you saying, “Hey Jordan, I would love about five hours of time a week from you for the next six years as I launched my career,” is a really big ask. So the biggest number one mistake people make is explicitly asking to be a mentor. Now the flip side, so I believe when you say talk about the don'ts, let's also talk about the do for the same advice. The things to do would be starting off really simply with one question of advice that the person can answer in about five to 10 seconds.
[00:29:42] You know, Jordan, if a young person emails you and is like, “Hi Jordan, I know you're super busy. This only take 10 seconds, if I'm looking to become a podcaster, what's one book that you really recommend I read? That takes you what? Or if I'm looking to get into entrepreneurship, whatever it may be, right? That takes you about five seconds to respond. And if the person's lucky, you might have five seconds, you only respond. And this is something Bill Gates taught me in the interview, is one of the best ways to get someone to take you under their wing is to show them almost the ROI of their advice.
[00:30:18] So someone recommends a book to you, you need to read that book within days or weeks. And then you need to follow up with a letter of gratitude, not by asking for more things, but a letter of gratitude about how much their advice helped you. And it creates, and again, we talked about like subconscious narratives. It creates the subconscious narrative in the mentor that, “Hey, my five seconds of advice to that kid who I don't even know really, made a giant difference in his life, that felt really good.” And then slowly you can start moving up the ladder in your asks, the book Persuasion, actually it's called Influence, talks about the yes ladder, which I know you're familiar with, and it's very similar with getting a mentor.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:06] So explicitly as asking people to be your mentor, not good. I agree. It is weird. It's like too much commitment because I don't even know what that means. Are you asking me to hold your hand until you're successful? How do I know you're going to do anything? Are you going to run around telling everybody that I'm mentoring you and then what are my obligations and then how does that reflect on me? And we just met and oh my gosh, right? It's like a date.
[00:31:28.6] Asking for too much too soon, very similar note on that one. But I think a lot of folks will go, “Hey, I just need a quick bit of advice and there's six paragraphs and its like, okay, how did you get to where you are?” And it's a whole interview. How did you get to where you are now? I didn't research you at all. I could have, but I'd rather put it in an email and have you write back to me, and tell me exactly what steps I need to do to build a big brand that will allow me to do what you're doing. What are the skills I need to build? And it's just like, oh man, if I even type this out, I'm probably spending more time typing this out than you will be applying it. So why would I ever do that? And you end up questioning, should I even reply to this? And I often will just say, look, there's a lot here. Not sure what to do with Elvis. I don't really have time. And that's the truth because you need to get people's toes wet first when it comes to this. And I agree with you on the rapid timing. If someone recommends a book or if I recommend a book to somebody, which I very rarely do, but if someone says, “Hey, what would you do if you were me? And then three days later or a day later, they follow up and they went, I did this thing. I'm always impressed, but if I hear from them in six months and they go, life got in the way, I just go, yeah, you're never going to do this.
Alex Banayan: [00:32:38] Right. Because it shows you that your ROI of helping them wasn't very high.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:42] Yeah. They clearly didn't value it more than they valued screwing around for three, four, five, six months with something else, or doing some other thing that clearly they thought was more important despite asking me what I thought was the most important, right? So and additionally, I am impatient and I think a lot of successful people in general, and I'm not trying to be like, “I'm so successful,” but I think a lot of successful people are super impatient. They want everything yesterday.
[00:33:05] And so if someone says, “Hey, this book is going to make you a better interviewer.” I will read it immediately. I'll move other things, I'll figure out how to do it. I'll hire that coach. I'll figure out what's next. I'm not going to go. Yeah, I definitely should slot that in for Q4 when I start caring about my career again, right? That doesn't make any sense. So when I see other people do things like that with kicking my advice down the road for a reason, or not taking something with urgency. I just figured, well, we don't really have a whole lot in common. So there's no point in me continuing to mentor you.
Alex Banayan: [00:33:38] Right, exactly. The second biggest mistake people make is they ask mentors who are in the limelight, and it's a very understandable thing to do. Like you brought up Tai Lopez, a lot of young people see his videos and really admire what he's done. And it's really easy to make Tai or Grant Cardone or Gary Vaynerchuk, who are really out there to be in your mind, your dream mentor. But what I've learned is that because all those guys are very generous, but they only have so much time in a day, even if you're lucky enough to get some advice from them. The impact that another mentor can have on you who's not in the limelight, who isn't being hounded by thousands or even millions of other people, is exponential. So what I would recommend to a young person or to an older person, because it's not about an age, it's really about a stage for someone who is looking for a mentor, is look at people in your life and index them as people who do have the time to help.
[00:34:44] And sometimes some of the smartest, most successful people aren't famous. For example, someone who changed my life tremendously is a guy named Cal Fussman who, Jordan, I know, you know. And I met Cal when he didn't have a website, he didn't have a Twitter page, he hadn't been on a single podcast, he had never given a single speech in his entire life. But he was just as successful and accomplished, just no one knew about him. Because he was a magazine writer, and magazine writers don't normally have public personas. And Cal completely changed my life more than any other well-known author who've I've come across. So that's the second one.
[00:35:26] And the third biggest mistake is, and I'll phrase this not as a mistake, but almost as an insight. One of my mentors is a man who really brilliant guy who to be a vice president at Goldman Sachs. And our relationship got to the point where I could be really honest with them and I was like, why are you spending time helping me so much? And he said that in his career, he realized people mentor other people for three reasons. And again, subconscious reasons. Number one, the mentor sees a part of themselves in the mentee. Number two, the mentor wants to help the mentee be more like them, whether that's succeeding in a certain career or whatnot. And the third one is the most surprising. The mentor wants to be more like the mentee.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:17] That is interesting.
Alex Banayan: [00:36:18] And that I couldn't see coming. At first, I remember when he told me that, I thought he like misspoke, but what he was telling me is that sometimes, a 65 year old CEO really misses having enthusiasm about their industry. They're worn out, they've been doing this for decades, and there's something really valuable to them. And I still have trouble understanding this, but this is how it works.
[00:36:45] It's valuable meeting with a 19 year old who thinks they have the most exciting job on Earth. It gives them a sense of energy where they can't find anywhere else. Or maybe it's curiosity or maybe, yeah, it's a sense of adventure. But the mentee, whether they know it or not, needs to bring something to the table that the mentor's also looking for. In my relationship, but we've talked about with Cal Fussman. Cal had no understanding of how the internet worked and how entrepreneurship worked. So while I was desperate to be mentored by Cal, I had no idea, he was also very interested about learning about other things, which I was able to help with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:25] Yeah, that is interesting. He is on Twitter. He is, I think on Instagram, he's all over the place.
Alex Banayan: [00:37:31] Yeah, I remember going to twitter.com, and helping him make the login. It was a very big moment in his life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:37] Yeah. That's really funny. I can see that though, because a mentor would go, oh man, I'm going to try to, all right, this kid's hungry, right? So they see a little bit of themselves in you. They want to make you more like them. But then, yeah, oh man, if I was 20 and I knew this, this, this, this, and this, oh, I would have been crushing it. I'm going to help this kid get to where I'm at now so that I can be, yeah, I can see the symbiotic relationship between those things. And I think that's very useful, and I think those that of course becomes useful later on down the line. But how do we use this to our advantage, right? We want to be more like them. We want them to be more like us. What do we do with this? I mean, now that we know that, how does that change our approach?
Alex Banayan: [00:38:20] I think it changes the approach drastically. And this is what I'll tell people who are looking to get a mentor. For example, I had a 19 year old guy come to me and he was from, I think he was Japanese. And one of the biggest pieces of advice I gave him is, and he was wanting to get into venture capital. I told him these three criteria, and I said, now that you know it, try to reverse engineer it. Okay, so the first one. They want to mentor someone who reminds them of themselves. All right, so the easiest thing that you can do, and this sort of sucks and this dust prove that there are a lot of issues in Silicon Valley, but it is the way it is. Try to find someone who physically looks like you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:06]I'm not Asian, so it’s going to be a lot. I'm not white dude. Silicon Valley can be tricky, all right.
Alex Banayan: [00:39:13] Right. But right, there are VCs who are Japanese immigrants that instantly checks off the first one, and gives you an advantage of the person's subconsciously wanting to help you. Also try to track down people who have similar backgrounds as you, who have similar personality traits. I know all this stuff sounds very esoteric and nonsensical, but it actually does make a huge difference. The next one is make sure that the advice that you're asking for is actually that person's expertise, it doesn't take any effort for them to give you that kind of advice. It's fun for them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:54] Right. So you're not asking somebody who's in creative arts, “Hey, what college should I go to study engineering,” you're really successful because then they have to think about it or they feel like, “Oh I'm faking my way through this.” There's a pause, which will likely, I would say reduce the chances that they're going to reply, or at least even to give you something useful. And of course if they do reply and they give you something they don't necessarily think is useful, they're going to avoid doing that because it’s not feel good.
Alex Banayan: [00:40:18] Right. And I think the mistake people make is, people aren't asking a basketball player for advice on quantum physics. But I think people make mistakes even in like the world of tech. They think, oh just because someone is a software engineer, they understand about reaching out to VCs, and the two jobs couldn't be more different. So it's about being super, super thoughtful about making sure the person you're asking for advice from that really is what they know best. And the third one is the most important one that you have control over, which is what you bring to the mentor relationship that the mentor also wants in their life.
[00:41:01] And it's hard to know what someone's looking for, but you can have pretty thoughtful guesses. You can make sure if someone is a bit older and doesn't understand tech, that's a huge advantage that I always tell young people. Like I remember the first time I was at breakfast with Larry King during the interview. One of Larry's best friends was like, did you know that you can watch videos on these iPads? And I was like, yeah, do you want me to help you do that? And he's like, my son got me iPad for Hanukkah, I still don't know how to turn it on. And literally, I was like their tech tutor. Another one of Larry's friends wanted to get in contact with YouTube stars because he heard like they're going to be the next like Hollywood stars. So I started making introductions to them to YouTube stars. With Cal Fussman, I talked about like I helped him get an online presence. So there is a way to be really thoughtful about, okay, if you put yourself in their shoes, what are they looking for? Whether that's just having the person with the right energy around them, or if it's actually tangible things like helping them with digital stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:12] Yeah. I think a lot of folks think, oh man, I can't give anything in return, I'm just starting out, but this person is so far ahead of me. They don't realize, we don't realize this is a symbiotic relationship.
Alex Banayan: [00:42:26] Yep. And this is a fucked up one, but it's important. Sometimes when someone needs is to feel good about themselves.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:35] Oh yeah, interesting.
Alex Banayan: [00:42:36] Like that's something no one wants to talk about and no one will admit. But it's weird to talk about. And I haven't had this experience at least consciously, but maybe someone's going through a divorce, they're losing a lot in their life and hearing from a young person who has read everything about them, and just is so thoughtful and so appreciative is exactly what that person needs in their life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:02]So how do you go about finding out what the need is? How do you elicit the need?
Alex Banayan: [00:43:08] That's the tricky part., that's where massive amounts of empathy come in. And the truth is no one can know exactly what it is. But doing your research makes a difference. And we'll go back to Cal Fussman again because he's a great example of, at the time when I met Cal, I think in 2013 all you had to do is Google Cal’s name to know that there was a massive discrepancy in his life, as he's one of the greatest magazine writers on Earth. Get you Google him, and there's like one article from the Austin Chronicle in 2006, like about him, which doesn't make any sense. He wasn't on any social platforms. So literally what I am just shocked is that people won't take one hour, like Jordan. I'm sure you get tons of cold messages from people who haven't even spent two hours on Google researching what you need in your life and what you're working on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:03] Yeah, I get a lot of that. I mean, I get a lot of great pitches too, but I also certainly get a lot of people that go, “Hey, I have a question for you, or how did this work in your life?” And I'm like, “Wow, you literally never listened.” You'd never even like, “Oh wow, yeah, I heard that this and this and this, how did you get started?” You're literally asking me how I got started? I mean, I've told that story hundreds of times on multiple shows, this one and others. But I think people don't really think about this. They think, oh well, this is the first time this person's hearing this question, or because maybe nobody asks them about themselves, I don't know. I'm trying to be trying to be understanding here. But I feel like if I was going to reach out to somebody, I wouldn't not have a clue who they are before I do that. The email to that person personally should probably not be your very first step.
Alex Banayan: [00:44:53] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:54] How do we reach out to these folks in the beginning? We got to research them. Okay, great. How does that process look? You spend a couple of hours reading, you spend a couple of hours going through the press on the website or their shows, and then you reach out and you ask them. But how do we get their attention? Especially if they're getting hundreds of emails a day.
Alex Banayan: [00:45:11] So one of the most practical and useful things that came from the writing of this book was a cold email template that Tim Ferriss gave me. And the way I met Tim was really funny because it's pretty much, I did every mistake you can possibly make in reaching out to a person. I sent his assistant 32 emails asking to interview Tim for my book. I could not have been more of an idiot. I wrote short emails from those wouldn't get responses. I would write nine paragraph emails when those wouldn't get responses. I would write the most preposterous things, like I verbatim said, doing an interview, I, this is very embarrassing to admit. I said doing an interview with me would be one of the best uses of one hour of Tim's life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:02] Wow.
Alex Banayan: [00:46:03] Like it just shows like I was 19 and that's why I have so much compassion for people who send those silly emails. Because it's not that they're dumb, they just haven't gone through it, you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:17] Yeah. And whenever I get anything like that, it's a pretty sure immediate delete.
Alex Banayan: [00:46:23] I'm that guy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:25] Yeah. So I understand that, we've all been there, but I think we can help people avoid that mistake. I think that you honestly believe that to be true in the moment. And that the thing is, we've heard that so many times and that's never been the case from somebody who's not a journalist.
Alex Banayan: [00:46:42] Exactly. And you know the way I ultimately got to Tim, I flew out to a conference he was speaking at , and I saw there was a bathroom by the stairs that led to the stage Tim was on stage, and I knew everyone in the audience wanted to talk to him. So I hid, this is again very embarrassing, but I was 19, and I hid in the bathroom by the stage with my ear pressed against the wall crouching beside a urinal for 30 minutes, listening and waiting for the applause. And as soon as the applause happened, I jumped out of the bathroom and Tim was standing directly in front of me all alone. And that's how I made the pitch. The book is full of a lot of very embarrassing moments. But what Tim gave me is this cold email template. Because I asked him the same question, which is how do you reach out to these VIPs and CEOs, or potential mentors who are busy, who do get a lot of emails? How do you get them to actually respond? Because my problem was no one was responding to me, for obvious reasons. And this is what Tim taught me. Tim launched his career by doing very similar things, and when he emails a very busy person or a VIP, this is the composition of his email.
[00:47:57] Let's say he's emailing Jordan. Hi Jordan. I know you get a lot of emails, so this will only take 60 seconds to read it. Literally, that's the entire opening paragraph. And then the second paragraph is very, very briefly in two sentences, who you are and what your credibility is of why they should keep reading. And again, if you don't have credibility, it's I'm a 19 year old student at blah, blah, blah, who's been listening to every episode of your podcast three times, like just something that shows that why you're not a random person. The third paragraph is where you ask your very, very specific question. Again, like you mentioned, you're not asking what's your life story, how'd you get started? It's what's the best podcast production software that you have, whatever that question is.
[00:48:52] And then the final paragraph is the clincher. You go because everyone loves to close with thanks in advance or looking forward to hearing from your favorable response. Like I hear that all the time. What Tim said is to do the opposite. Finish it with, I completely understand if you're too busy to reply, if for some reason you have time for a one or two sentence response, it would mean the world to me, all the best. And if you look at each paragraph, because of course, I've like psycho analyze this way too much. The first paragraph is fascinating. It's one sentence, and the first half of the sentence where it reads, I know you're busy and you get a lot of emails. Immediately shows that you have some sort of grip on their reality, and the second half of the email and it shows that you're thoughtful. It shows a lot of good things about you, just that first half of a sentence.
[00:49:51]The second half of the sentence, this will only take 60 seconds to read. Again, cements in their mind that this person is very thoughtful about my time and respects my time. I then I also think, and this is just my theory, it creates a sense of curiosity in them of, first of all what kind of person says something like that in an email. And second of all, is this actually going to take 60 seconds to read? And what I've played around with to actually better results, is I make it like more specific. Like this will only take 45 seconds to read and it makes people even more curious. And again, the closing line is also critically important where you're not just saying what everyone else says, what just thinks in advance because it's presumptuous, and again, I used to say an all 32 emails I sent Tim Ferriss’ assistant, I ended all of them with thanks in advance. I'm looking forward to hearing from you soon.
[00:50:48] And God bless Tim, because he was trying to save me for myself. He saw those emails and he was trying to help me, and he was getting nothing in return, but he was kind enough to sort of slap me and say, you've got to change your ways. And I'm very grateful that he did.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:04] We'll throw this cold email template into the worksheets as well. So if you, if people want that, they don't have to take notes here on the show, they can go grab that at the worksheets, which will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. I want to wrap though with this particular story because I heard that you won The Price Is Right, and that's how you ended up funding the book. How did that happen?
Alex Banayan: [00:51:27] So when I originally had the idea to go on this mission, like I told you earlier, I thought the easy part would be calling up Bill Gates and interviewing him. I thought that was the easy part. The hard part, I figured, well he's getting money to fund the journey. I was all out of bar meets for cash, and I was buried in student loan debt. There had to be another way. So two nights before final exams, my freshman year of college. I'm in the library doing what everyone does two nights before finals. I'm on Facebook , and-
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:02] Finding [indiscernible] [0:52:02]
Alex Banayan: [00:52:04] Exactly, exactly. It's just the library before finals, just a sea of Facebook. And I'm on there and I see someone's offering tickets to The Price Is Right. And it's filming a few miles from my campus, and the first thought that comes to my mind is, what if I just go on this show and win some money to fund the book? Not my brightest moment, but I had much bigger problems. I had never seen a full episode of the show before. Of course, bits and pieces when I was home sick as a kid and I had finals in two days. So I'm sitting in the library and for some reason, I don't know if you've ever had one of these moments where just this stupid idea keeps clawing into your mind. So to prove to myself as a bad idea, I remember opening up my notebook and making you know, the best and worst case scenarios. And it was pros and cons, worst case scenarios, fail finals, get kicked out of premed, lose financial aid, Mom stops talking to me, no, Mom abandons me, look fat on TV. There were 20 cons, and the only pro was maybe win enough money to fund this dream. So that night I did the logical thing, and I pulled an all-nighter to study, but I didn't study for finals. I studied how to hack The Price Is Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:32] Nice.
Alex Banayan: [00:53:33] And you know, I went on the show the next day and did this preposterous strategy, and I ended up winning the entire showcase showdown, winning a sailboat, selling the sailboat. And that's how I funded the book.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:46] So wait, how exactly did you hack? I mean, you don't have to get into the details, but what does it mean to hack The Price Is Right? I'm curious.
Alex Banayan: [00:53:53] So if you look at The Price Is Right, because at the time I had just finished reading the four hour work week, this is right in the start of my journey. And I was like, all right, what's the 80, 20 of the The Price Is Right? And what I realize is there's 300 people in the audience and then eight get called down to play, and then one out of those eight win. So if you do the odds, the one out of eight is not as bad as the eight out of 300. So I was like, all right, if I have only one night to figure out how to hack The Price Is Right, I'm just going to use all of my time figuring out how to ensure I make it past the round of 300 into the round of eight.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:35] Right. Okay. So it's about getting selected to play more so than it is about knowing how to guess the price of everything.
Alex Banayan: [00:54:41] Exactly. And in my all-nighter, I sort of figured out that there is, you know they make it look random. Jordan, come on down as if they pulled your name out of my hat. But during my all-nighter, I discovered there was a system to how they select contestants. And what I learned is that there's a producer who interviews every single person in the audience before the show goes on. What no one knows, and I found this out about three or four a.m during my all nighter, is that there's also an undercover producer, who's planted amongst the audience. So The Price Is Right has contestants show up four hours before the show begins filming to wait in line and do paperwork. And the biggest mistake people make is they think only the 10 seconds you're in front of the producer is your interview. But it's actually a four hour long interview.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:34] Ah, nice.
Alex Banayan: [00:55:35] So once I figured that out, the second, my car's wheels touched the premises of CBS studios. It was the interview was happening. So I'm flirting with the security guards at the front desk. I'm dancing with the custodians, I'm breakdancing, and I don't know how to break dance. It's a four hour long thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:56] yeah, just making a total ass out of yourself. Got it. Okay.
Alex Banayan: [00:55:58] Right, exactly. And another thing, and again, this actually goes back to everything we've talked about over the past hour on this podcast. I went in making sure that I knew every single thing possible about the casting producer. His name was Stan, and I knew where he grew up. I knew where he went to school. I pretty much knew what he had for breakfast that morning. I had read every tweet he had ever put out, like I just knew everything about him.
[00:56:30] So by the time I got there, it's finally my turn in line. I already knew his entire system. I knew he walks down this long metal pole asking the same questions. What's your name, where you're from, what do you do? What's your name, where you're from, what do you do? If he likes you, he'll ask you another question. And if he really likes you, he'll turn around and look to his assistant and she'll write your name on her clipboard. Before the show began filming, I already knew if I was a contestant or not, which almost no one knows that. And Stan comes up to me and he's like, what's your name? What's your name? Where you're from, what do you do?
[00:57:07] And I go, “Hey, I'm Alex. I'm 18.I'm a freshman in college. I'm studying pre-med.”And he goes, “Premed, you must have a lot of times studying. How do you have time The Price Is Right?” And I go, “Oh, is that where I am?” No, like I didn't even get that. Like I don't even got a petty laugh.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:28] He was just like, yeah, that’s not funny. I've heard that before.
Alex Banayan: [00:57:30] Yeah, exactly. And his eyes start wandering, and he's not turning back to his assistant. So I know what I need to look for to make sure I win. So I know he's not looking at assistance. I'm like, all right, fuck, I have to do something else. And I had read in, I think it was a Tony Robbins book, that human contact speeds up a relationship. So I had an idea, I had to touch Stan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:54] Oh my god.
Alex Banayan: [00:57:55] But clearly they have created systems to prevent this because they put the contestants behind like these metal railings, like this cage. And Stan's like 20 feet away. So I'm like, Satn, Satn, come over here. I want to make a handshake with you, and he's very reluctant. So I get the whole audience chanting his name until they finally comes over and we make a handshake. I teach them how to pound it and blow it up, and he starts laughing and all the contestants think that I just pass the interview. But then I see Stan walk away and doesn't look at his assistant and she doesn't write anything down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:30] Dang. So you just were annoying for no reason.
Alex Banayan: [00:58:33] That's not the first time in my life. And again, I don't know if you've ever had one of those moments where you have your entire dream right in front of you, and it's almost like sand slipping through your fingers. And the worst part is, you didn't even have a chance to really prove yourself. So I don't know what got into me, but I just started yelling at the top of my lungs. Stan, Stan,
You know the whole audience suits their heads around, everyone goes quiet, they think I'm like having a seizure. And Stan like runs over and he's like, are you okay? Are you okay? What's going on? And now, I really don't know what I'm going to say.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:13] You didn't have a plan for that? You were just going to yell his name and you didn't have a plan after that?
Alex Banayan: [00:59:17] I don't know what I was doing. This is like plan Z. So he's looking at me, I'm looking at him, and he's like very typical Hollywood, turtleneck red scarf. Even though it's like 70 degrees outside. And I just look at him and I'm like, you're a scarf. And now, I really didn't know what I was going to say next. And Stan is just looking at me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:42] This is so cringe worthy.
Alex Banayan: [00:59:42] Oh my God, it was so bad. So he's just looking at me. The whole audience is staring. And the only thing that I can think of is I look at Stan with all of the seriousness I can and I yell, I'm like, “Stan, I'm an avid scarf collector. I have 362 pairs of my dorm room, and I'm missing that one. Where don't you get it?” And Stan starts cracking up and I think he finally figured out what I was trying to do, and he was laughing more at why I was doing it. He like gave me his scarf. He's like, “Look, you need this more than I do.” He's starts joking around. I think of it more turns around winks, and assistant makes mark on the check board.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:28] Oh dang. So it finally worked, to shut this kid up.
Alex Banayan: [01:00:33] And that's pretty much a foreshadow of the entire journey of the book.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:38] Oh my gosh. So in the end, be as annoying as you can without pissing people off. That sounds like the hack of the process, but so you end up, okay, so you ended up going on The Price Is Right, and winning a sailboat. You pawn the sale. Well, you hack the sailboat, and you end up with the money to create the rest of the book. Why didn't you just keep going back on The Price Is Right? That's the question, I was thinking about right know.
Alex Banayan: [01:01:01] They thought of that because after you win, they give you a mountain of paperwork. And as I'm reading the paperwork and like giant bold letters, I hear buy swear to never return to The Price Is Right for 10 years.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:17] Really?
Alex Banayan: [01:01:18] Yeah. So I did the second best thing and I taught my friends how to do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:23] Why don't they want you back for 10 years?
Alex Banayan: [01:01:25] I have no idea. Maybe it's now that I know how it works, it's a lot easier or truthfully maybe they don't want to repeat contestants, but what I did end up doing a year ago, I was coming to the end of writing the book, and I realized I needed some money for the book launch, fund that whole process. And I know this sounds ridiculous, but as I'm trying to figure out how to get money for the book launch, my sister said that she's found tickets to this game show that was filming the next morning, and it was a game show I'd never heard, of those on the game show network. It’s a brand new shows, so there weren't even episodes to study and there were only three tickets left. This is eight p.m and the show is filming at six a.m the next morning, and I called my two best friends. I tell them to like clear their schedules for the morning and we just decided we're going to see if The Price Is Right strategy
can transcend on the other shows, and we ended up going on the next morning at six a.m, and four hours later, I walked away with a brand new car.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:30] And on that note, thanks so much for coming on the show man. I appreciate it. And I think reaching out to mentors, influencers, things like that, and really going for what you're looking to do, but having a system to do it while acknowledging the role of luck and your success really is useful for people of all ages. So I appreciate your time.
Alex Banayan: [01:02:48] Thank you so much. This was really, really fun.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:52] Interesting show, Jason. I mean I didn't see the game show thing happening. He must have annoyed the crap out of those poor people, but hey, it works.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:02:59] Yeah, definitely. I mean you could just named this book giant chutzpah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:04.] Yeah.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:03:04] Because this kid has it in spades. It's just like I'm going to go for it. I'm going to go find that backdoor and find my way in no matter what it takes, and he did it. I mean balls of steel, I think is the only other way to really describe this kid.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:17] Yeah, great big thank you to Alex. The book title is The Third Door, and if you enjoy this, don't forget to thank Alex on Twitter. That will all be linked up in the show notes for this episode, which can be found as always, jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Tweet at me your number one takeaway from Alex. I'm @jordanharbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, so if you share the show, you can always tag us. And don't forget, if you want to learn how to apply everything you heard from Alex, make sure you go grab the worksheets. Also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[01:03:46]We've got our Alexa Skill. If you want a quick refresher on some of the episodes you've already heard, as well as a little sneak peek on what's coming up or on episodes you have not yet heard, you can go to jordanharbinger.com/alexa to get those installed in your daily briefing.
[01:04:00] This episode was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. Show notes are by Robert Fogarty. Booking back office and last minute miracles are by Jen Harbinger, and I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Throw us an iTunes review, those are very helpful. Instructions for that jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Make sure you choose a unique nickname. Write something nice. We'll share it with the team. Don't forget to pay that fee and share the show with those you love and even those you don't. We've got lots more in the pipeline. We're excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen. And we'll see you next time.
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