From Sleeping On A Couch To Making Millions Connecting People: An Interview With Lewis Howes
One of the internet’s top connectors on vision, hustle and overcoming adversity.
We all grow up with dreams of how our lives will work out one day.
Dreams about how our careers will take shape. About what our families will look like. About the kind of people we’ll grow into.
Sometimes, reality doesn’t quite turn out the way we dreamed.
Sometimes our dreams get shattered.
And often, the difference between the people at the top of their game and those that are still struggling, is how well they’ve adapted to what life has thrown their way.
Lewis Howes is a perfect example of that.
He was a promising professional athlete that expected to make his living playing football.
But his dream was broken when an injury ended his career.
Lewis, however, didn’t let that stop him. He clawed his way back, and today is a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most respected experts in the world when it comes to connecting with people and building a business online.
We talked to Lewis about his story, the challenges he’s overcome, and most importantly, how any entrepreneur can find success with a few key strategies that most never even consider.
From Sleeping On A Couch To Making Millions Connecting People: An Interview With Lewis Howes
A Tough Turn Of Events
2007 wasn’t a good year for Lewis Howes.
Up until that point, he had been a promising professional football player. He had broken records as a wide receiver in college, and left school early to pursue his dream. His goal was to do well in the Arena League, and then move up to the NFL.
But in 2007, an injury ended his career.
Lewis broke his wrist diving to make a catch, and after playing the rest of the football season with a broken wrist, had to have surgery that would ensure that he couldn’t play again.
To say that the injury hurt would be an understatement.
Football was all I planned to do with my life. I had no backup plan.
I was sleeping on my sister’s couch and trying to figure out how to get my confidence back, because I had absolutely none at the time. I didn’t know anything other than football.
But while Lewis was down, he wasn’t out; he was still driven to do something with his life.
And from his sister’s couch, he found his way out with the help of a few very helpful mentors.
Networking His Way Out
Lewis decided to reach out to some people that inspired him.
I reached out initially to a bunch of mentors. People that I was just inspired by in life: people in business, people that challenged me to step up in a different way.
For example, one guy was an entrepreneur who was connected to my university, so I had met him a few times, and I just reached out to him.
They gave me different challenges, they had me try different things and learn new things, and that was the first step.
Finding those mentors helped me find something to get excited about, and to work towards.
But Lewis knew that he couldn’t start by asking. Connecting with mentors doesn’t work that way.
At first, all I said was “how can I give?”
I never asked them for advice. I never asked them to give me anything.
I would always ask them how they got to where they are. I asked them questions about their success and I would never ask them for any introductions or advice.
But through me asking them how they made it happen for themselves, they were giving me the advice I needed.
I was just asking in a different way and listening in a different way.
At the end of these phone calls or meetings, I would always say: what’s your biggest challenge, what are you trying to get to next in your business or in your career?
And they would tell me, “I’m really looking for a head of sales,” or “I need this designer” or “we’re trying to figure out how we can do X,” and because I was building this incredible network and that’s all I was doing all day, I was able to say, “oh I know two people that would be perfect for that position,” or “I know someone for that,” and I would make these introductions constantly for people.
I was always a champion of their biggest problem and I would solve their problem for them, and that was powerful. By helping and serving people first, they would always say, “what can I do to help you?”
And I would never ask for anything; I would just continue to give and give until I actually really wanted something that was important or powerful.
One of those mentors suggested that Lewis check out LinkedIn.
I think there were 12 million people on it at the time, and he suggested that I see if I can find a job or connect with some influencers there.
So I would spend about 6-8 hours a day just connecting with people one by one, researching, building my profile and building groups.
How To Connect With Anyone
Let’s say you have a successful person that you want to connect with.
Here’s how to make that happen, according to Lewis:
I’d start by researching the person on LinkedIn and seeing how you’re connected to this person. Do you know any people in common?
Go to Facebook and look for the same thing: connections. The easiest way to connect with someone is through a recommendation from a mutual contact.
Next, I’d do research and look for all of the common interests we have, and all of the things we have in common, whether we grew up in the same state or went to the same college or rival colleges; you want to find out as many mutual points of connection as possible.
You want to relate to people from the first moment. If I said, "hey I have no clue who you are but would like to connect," It would be a real mess. But if I said, “hey I’m really close with three people that work at your company, or I’m close with your wife’s sister and I also saw that you played football back in the day just like me, and I’d love to connect to hear more about your story.”
It’s a much easier way to get someone to reach back out to you and be open to discussing anything, because you have something in common.
Pretty soon after, one thing led to another…
Turning A LinkedIn Network Into A Business
Lewis’ commitment to connecting with people on LinkedIn, coupled with his eagerness to try just about anything to get off of his sister’s couch, soon led him to his first taste of success.
Then I started doing these LinkedIn networking events around the country for people in my network, and I realized I could make money around these events.
And then people started asking me to coach them on how to use LinkedIn, because I was doing it for myself.
So I would charge for that, and then one of my mentors was like “why don’t you write a book where you can put it all in one place as opposed to doing one-on-one?”
So I wrote a book, but and then thought, “well I’m not making any money from books, so why don’t I try a course?”
So I dove in and figured out everything I could learn about how people were building courses online.
The whole process was a lot of just getting to the next level through trying, through creating, through making mistakes, through learning.
And finally, when I made my first course about LinkedIn, I was like “this is it. This is where I can leverage my time, I can leverage the internet, I can leverage technology to make a lot of money.”
That first webinar made $6,200 in an hour, and that was more money than I’d made in the previous two years combined, so I was blown away.
I felt like the richest kid in the world. 24 years old and I’d never really made money before, and I was like “I will do a webinar every day for the rest of my life making $6,200 an hour,” and since 2009 I’ve probably done close to 1,000 webinars live. Now I also do a lot of automated webinars, but I was just committed to making that the best I could, and it’s been an incredible journey.
Lewis’ business grew quickly. He made his first hire, a part-time customer support person, after their first $200,000 month.
And after doing $2.5 million per year in revenue for three years, he sold that company.
Today, he does online courses that range anywhere from $500 to $1,000, generates revenue through his popular podcast, does public speaking and coaches high-level entrepreneurs (more on that below).
But while Lewis’ business grew quickly, he didn’t lose sight of the principles that helped him in the beginning.
Growing Even Bigger
Today, Lewis has authored three books, and his latest, The School of Greatness, hit #3 on the New York Times bestseller list for Advice books. The book is packed with value, and at the end of this interview, you’ll see how you can get the bestseller for free.
To see just how well Lewis’ networking strategies have served him, look no further than the list of heavy hitters who provided testimonials for his book:
But even today, his approach hasn’t changed much.
His blog, rather than being full of self-promoting content, focuses on featuring episodes from his School of Greatness Podcast with others that his readers can learn from.
That’s not unintentional.
I’m building relationships with people that I’m inspired by, that I can give to first, and then one day maybe I can lean on and ask for support.
My book is a great example; for three years all I did was give on my podcast, and when my book launched, I asked for this one thing: “can you guys help me for this one week, and get the word out about my book?”
It paid off in a big way when I hit the bestseller list. When you give for years and years without asking for anything, people will step up when you ask.
Second, there’s only so much I can say, and people don’t want to just hear from me constantly.
I want to be able to share the wisdom and insights that I’m learning from other people. There’s a lot of great information out there that’s different from my perspective, and I want to give that to my audience.
And finally, I have my own selfish reasons; I’m doing it to learn from these individuals. It helps me grow and get more information. I feel like I get access to the most inspiring people in the world, and that’s so valuable for me. You can’t go to school to get that information.
The One Thing Most Entrepreneurs Are Missing
With the incredible network Lewis has built and the things he’s learned, it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of demand to tap into his expertise.
Just how much demand is enough to shock most people: Lewis coaches entrepreneurs for $10,000 per hour (not a typo), but for the right business, the value one walks away from after a session with Lewis can be worth many times that cost.
And what is that value, exactly?
A lot of entrepreneurs don’t have the focus they need because they’re so scatterbrained and thinking about so many things.
So we figure out what they really want.
A lot of people want to make a lot of money, but they don’t put a number down. They don’t say “here’s the goal I’m going to hit,” and more importantly, “why I want to hit it.”
Success isn’t just about making money, but something deeper and more meaningful that’s going to leave you fulfilled, rather than unfulfilled, when you hit that number.
If you’re just chasing money for money’s sake, you’re never going to feel happy about it at the end of the day.
So get clarity on a specific number that you want to make in the next 3, 6 and 12 months, and why that number is important, and then set a clear path to make that happen.
The clear path is the easiest part.
Look at where you currently are with your offers, products and services, and look at the numbers.
Then you just have to think, “ok, if you make X right now, then how many clients do you need to hit that number that you want?”
It’s very clear and simple once you lay it out that way.
If you sell software, how many customers do you need at $50 a month, versus at $200 a month, to get to a half a million a month?
And with your current audience, how many affiliates are you going to need? How much ad spending are you going to do?
That’s all most people need.
Why 3, 6 and 12 month increments for goals?
Because we live in seasons.
As an athlete, I play a season of football. There’s a preseason, there’s a season, there’s the playoffs and the post season and then there’s the off-season.
So if I look at my life, and I played a football game every single Saturday or every single Sunday, I’d be dead.
You have to take time to have an off-season to re-evaluate.
You have to have the preseason to build your body up.
You have to do all of these different things.
So in my business and my life, I think, “ok, what do I want to achieve in the next three months?”
“How can I prepare for it, build up for it, put a lot of energy into it, and at the end, launch it and make it happen?”
Every three months is a season, and I’ll use this process for just about everything.
How To Set A Vision For Your Business And Life
Lewis is the first to say that he’s never been the smartest guy in the room.
But the thing that sets him apart and makes him successful?
I’m not afraid to fail, and I’m committed to my vision.
My vision is to serve 100 million people, and I’m not attached to a method or a mechanism of how it’s going to get done.
People learn best in different formats, so to make that happen, that means building something, making it the best it can be, and then building a team around it so I can go start something else.
Learn, grow, make it the best it can be, build a team around it and then continue to the next thing.
For me, I like being able to do multiple things, but I want them to be at a high level, and I know that I have to spend a certain amount of energy and time focused on them first to get to that level before I can move onto something else.
I think a lot of entrepreneurs will do too much at once, and they never make any one thing great.
You’ve got to get everything you do to that certain level.
If it’s your software business, you’ve got to take it to a certain level before you go and create 10 different plugins. So many businesses make that mistake.
Why don’t you make one thing great, build a team around that to sustain it, and then start the next thing?
When you’re trying to do too much at once everything suffers.
While 100 million people may sound like a huge goal, that wasn’t always Lewis’ vision.
We have different visions in different stages of our life.
When I was in high school, I just wanted to have a girlfriend and be a college athlete.
When I was in college, I wanted to be an All-American and go play professional football.
When I was injured on my sister’s couch, I just wanted to have my own apartment that I could pay for.
So over the years, my vision has evolved, and that’s ok.
A couple of years ago I had sold a company and I’d done a bunch of things, and I realized that I wanted to make a bigger impact.
When I asked a lot of people, “what’s your vision?”, they’re like “I change the world, I want to inspire everyone, I want to inspire the world.”
And that’s just too vague.
I know as an athlete, that I need to be specific with my goals and my dreams in order to achieve them.
So I said, you know what, I’ve already reached a million people.
A billion people sounds like a lot right now, I’m not Facebook, and I’m not going to be able to create Facebook in the next couple years, but a hundred million people? That seems like a lot of people, but it also seems like it’s achievable in my lifetime, or even in the next few years depending on what happens.
And so I just said 100 million people is where I’m starting for my vision right now.
So how can you set a vision for your own life?
In the first chapter of my book, I have these exercises that help people get clear on their vision if they don’t know what they want.
A lot of people just don’t even know what they want.
They’re so vague, or they don’t know or they want everything, or they want a bunch of different things, and that’s challenging.
If you’re vague, you’re going to get vague results.
When you’re clear, you know the direction you need to move in, and the actions to take to get there.
It’s a very simple very athletic approach, and that’s how I look at it.
First, get clear on your bigger vision. What do you stand for? Who are you? What do you represent? How do you want to show up in the world?
But then, break that down into 3, 6 and 12 month goals. Because it you have a goal that’s 10 years out, it’s unapproachable. But if you look at 3, 6 and 12 months down the line, that becomes an accessible launchpad for getting to where you want to be.
And finally, Lewis notes that failure does happen. It will.
His career-ending injury is evidence of that.
But, he says, success is just on the other side of that failure if you know how to respond.
Failure makes you self-aware.
You learn that with big dreams and big goals, the only way to make them happen is to fail and make mistakes along the way.
Not everything’s going to happen easily all the time.
The greatest minds in the world go through the most extreme adversities in order to get there, so when you fail or you make mistakes or you don’t reach your goal, you ask yourself: “what was the gap? What was in the way that caused us to not make this happen?”
Was I not living from a place of urgency? Did we not have the right team members? Did we not take the actions we said we were going to take? Did the actions not work, and if not, what do we need to change for next time?
It’s just a matter of being self-aware and saying, alright, this is a good thing, this just means we haven’t stepped into who we need to become to create the results we want, so who do we need to become, how do we need to shift, and what do we need to do to move forward?
Your turn: Ask Lewis Anything (And get his book for free!)
Lewis has (very) generously agreed to answer your questions in the comments of this interview. We’re going to be watching closely and trying to learn as much as we can ourselves, so don’t be shy.
Post your questions for Lewis in the comments below.
PLUS, we’re giving away 15 copies of Lewis’ amazing bestselling book, The School of Greatness.
Enter to win via the form below before 12PM EST on Thursday, December 24th.