Self Help

How to Get Ahead A Proven 6-Step System t - Zak Slayback

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Matheus Puppe

· 50 min read

Cover Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Acknowledgments Introduction: Why Do Most Career Books Suck? CHAPTER 1 Focus: Find Your Focus, Get a Clear Path to Meaningful Goals, and Know Exactly What to Do to Get Ahead Learn a step-by-step system for setting meaningful and useful professional goals. Make a plan to achieve those goals and stop spinning your wheels in your career. CHAPTER 2 Learn: Shave Years off Your Learning Curve, Learn from the Best, and Land Great Mentors Learn exactly how to reach out to the three types of people from whom you need to learn. Know what to say to them to make them want to work with you. CHAPTER 3 Execute: Focus on the Work That Matters, Avoid Burnout, and Feel Confident About Tackling Any New Project Learn a reliable way to prevent burnout and get all of your big projects done without massively changing your habits.
CHAPTER 4 Signal: Unleash a Personal Brand that Grows Your Network, Brings You Opportunities, and Makes the Right People Want to Work with You Establish a personal brand online. Learn advanced tactics for growing your personal brand. CHAPTER 5 Connect: Build a World-Class Network Without Feeling Sleazy, Conclusion: Putting It All Together Bibliography and Further Reading Index About the Author

  • Most career advice sucks because it comes from “box-checkers” who give recycled advice or “hacks” who promote shortcuts that don’t help in the long run.
  • You need a career system focused on helping you achieve meaningful goals, build a strong network, and establish a personal brand.
  • This book provides that system across six chapters:
  1. Find your focus and set professional goals. Create a map to achieve them.

  2. Learn how to approach experts and find mentors. Build your “cabinet of models.”

  3. Develop a system to get work done without burning out. Demolish productivity barriers.

  4. Craft, position, and unleash an effective personal brand. Use it whether employed or self-employed.

  5. Build a high-quality network of people who can help you advance. Expand your network the right way.

  6. Determine which opportunities to ignore and which to pursue. Learn how to “read minds” and have people compete to work with you.

  • Following this Focus-Learn-Execute-Signal-Connect-Close system helps you create an “Opportunity Machine” to bring new career opportunities.

Here’s a summary of you based on the introduction:

  • You have an ordinary background with no major advantages or network to inherit
  • You learned a system of career success through experience, testing it on yourself and others, and teaching it to over 1 million readers and clients
  • The system focuses on signaling the right traits, building a personal brand, developing a strong network, and creating a portfolio of work
  • You now work in venture capital, teaching the system to startup founders and professionals
  • The book offers a combination of theory, strategy, and tactics for career success, based on real people and stories
  • The book is for people who want to find focus, make a career transition, learn from masters, confidently take on new projects, build a personal brand, develop a professional network, pitch themselves, and want a proven system over buzzwords or “hacks”
  • The book provides actionable steps and tools to apply lessons, rather than just strategy

The key message seems to be that through deliberate and consistent action, using a proven system, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary career success and opportunities. The book aims to teach that system, providing the theory and specific actions to put it into practice.

Adsheets: Send an email to get an adsheet. The email should express why you bought the book and your goals.

Focus: Most people need meaningful goals and an actionable path to achieve them, not just “set goals.” Common goal-setting advice tells you to imagine your ideal life but often fails to provide meaningful goals or a path to achieve them. Meaningful goals reflect your deeper desires and values. They motivate you to progress toward what you really want. Mimetic desire (wanting what others want) and cognitive biases make it hard to know what you really want without guidance.

Why goals only matter when they’re meaningful: Effective goal-setting provides the “why” behind goals and a clear path to achieve them. Pursuing meaningful goals, not achieving them, provides sustainable fulfillment and motivation. Watching grass grow wouldn’t be a meaningful goal for most people.

Ambition mapping for effective goal-setting: Ambition mapping helps identify meaningful goals and build an actionable path to achieve them. It addresses the challenges of introspection and figuring out what you really want.

The exercise worksheets provide a framework for figuring out your values, priorities, and building a meaningful career or business. The email scripts provide examples for reaching out to build your network.

Ambition Mapping is a goal-setting process that uses sentence completion exercises and backward induction to help you identify meaningful goals and develop a plan to achieve them.

Sentence completion exercises expose your intuitions about what you want and don’t want. You rank and filter these intuitions to determine a compelling goal.

Backward induction involves thinking backward from your goal’s achievement to the present to develop a practical plan with milestones.

The six steps in the Ambition Mapping process are:

  1. Determine what you do not want (via negativa) using sentence completion exercises. Identify constraints and factors that could negatively impact your fulfillment.

  2. Determine what you do want (via positiva) using sentence completion exercises. Identify what motivates and drives you.

  3. Filter your strongest intuitions to choose a goal. Rank your answers from the exercises.

  4. Set up your Ambition Map by ordering your intuitions into a table.

  5. Refine your goal into definite terms. Make it specific and measurable.

  6. Build a practical path to achieve your goal by establishing milestones. Use backward induction to determine the steps required to achieve your goal.

The key benefits of Ambition Mapping are:

•It helps you gain clarity on what you want and don’t want.

•It reduces overwhelm from too many choices by providing constraints.

•It leads to meaningful goals tailored to your values and priorities.

•It provides a practical step-by-step plan to achieve your goals.

•It helps overcome mental barriers through introspection.

•It is a proven process based on tools from psychology, philosophy, and psychotherapy.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key ideas and benefits of Ambition Mapping? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand my summary.

The main points of the advice are:

  1. Via negativa - Write down things you want to avoid in your career. Come up with 72 sentences (6 stems x 12 sentences each) describing what you do not want. Choose the 6 strongest sentences.

  2. Via positiva - Write down things you do want in your career. Come up with another 72 sentences describing what you do want. Choose the 6 strongest sentences.

  3. Combine the 12 strongest sentences (6 from via negativa and 6 from via positiva) into an “Ambition Map” with 3 columns: Via Negativa, Goal, Via Positiva.

  4. Use the Ambition Map to determine a concrete and ambitious goal for your career. The goal should meet the 12 strongest sentences in avoiding what you don’t want and achieving what you do want. Timeline for the goal can be 6-24 months. Do research to determine a realistic goal.

  5. Make the goal SMART - Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Reasonable and Time-bound. State the goal as “By [date], I will [achieve outcome]”. The goal should be ambitious by having an accelerated timeline or bigger payoff. But it should also be reasonable and actually achievable based on your current situation.

  6. Refine and revisit your goal periodically. Review your Ambition Map and see if the goal still aligns with what you want to avoid and achieve in your career. Make adjustments as needed to keep progressing toward a meaningful career.

The key is determining what really matters to you in your career by tapping into your intuition. Then set a concrete plan to work toward that in a methodical and optimistic way. Continually check that your actions and goals align with what you value to build a fulfilling career path.

• You have an unfair advantage when starting something new because you can learn from those who came before you. This allows you to shave years off the learning curve.

• Learn complex new skills and avoid costly mistakes by studying what the top performers in your field have done. Model their behaviors and approaches.

• Build a group of mentors, teachers, and advisors who can help guide you. Make it easy and worthwhile for them to help you.

• Top performers invest time upfront learning from those more advanced in order to save time later. They are humble and focused on learning.

• Pick up knowledge and skills not taught in formal education by studying the work of others, asking good questions, and learning the unwritten rules.

• Set a SMART goal to find 3-5 mentors or teachers to help guide your learning over the next 6-12 months. Reach out and build those relationships.

• Spend less time being “ productive” and more time learning skills that really move the needle in your career. The ROI on learning and skill-building is huge.

• Opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative forgone. As you gain more skills and experience, your opportunity cost increases because you have more options to choose from.

• When you’re just starting out, your opportunity cost is low. You can use this to your advantage by finding models - people who are more skilled and experienced than you - and learning from them. This helps you gain tacit knowledge through real-world practice and feedback.

• Build your own Cabinet of Models made up of advisors, teachers, and mentors. They provide guidance, teach you skills, and give you opportunities to gain experience.

• Advisors have expertise and experience. They can give you advice and guidance. Look for advisors who are accessible, have expertise in their field, have achieved what you want to achieve, and have a strong network. Meet with them as needed. Take their advice with a grain of salt.

• Examples of advisor relationships:

  • Hiring an SEO expert to learn how to get your website to the top of Google.
  • Reaching out to someone at your dream job to learn how to get hired there.

• Approach advisors informally. Explain your goals, ask good questions, apply their advice, and follow up to show your progress. Build the relationship over time through reciprocation and trust.

  • Teachers are skilled at transferring explicit knowledge and guiding you to solve problems through coaching. Hire them when you want to learn a specific skill quickly and thoroughly. Look for teachers with experience, who charge for their time, offer testimonials, and can articulate a coaching methodology. Pay attention to their input in their domain of expertise.

  • Mentors provide an example to follow, give feedback, and offer access to their network. Don’t look for a “mentor” - instead, offer value to busy, experienced professionals by taking on their responsibilities. Mentors have a track record of developing others, are well-connected, and make themselves accessible. Work with mentors long enough to gain experience and build your portfolio.

  • Don’t attend generic mentorship events. Pitch experienced professionals directly to work for them instead.

  • Teachers offer explicit knowledge and coaching. Mentors provide tacit knowledge and opportunities to gain experience. Both accelerate your progress, but in different ways.

  • Follow up with maintenance emails and expressions of thanks to keep these relationships going. But only meet or call again when you have a clear purpose.

•Knowledge from mentors comes in the form of tacit knowledge and experience. Work closely with mentors to gain relevant skills and experience. Observe them in action, be aware of their processes, and understand the rationale behind their decision making.

•Don’t rely on mentors to explicitly teach you. Instead, learn by observing what they do and following their example. Learn from their failures as well as their successes.

•Build a strong relationship with your mentor by starting with offering to help them with small, concrete tasks that they need done but don’t have time for. This demonstrates your value and allows you to work closely with them. Over time, the relationship can develop into a paid role or a career opportunity.

•To find a mentor, identify busy, successful people in your desired field or career stage. Approach them by first looking for mutual connections who can provide a warm introduction. If none exist, do research to find their contact information and reach out directly.

•When contacting a potential mentor, focus on the value you can provide to them. Identify specific problems you can solve or tasks you can take over that are important but lower priority, or urgent but can be delegated. Explain how you can free up their time and support their work. Don’t just ask them to mentor you without demonstrating your value.

•Be prepared to start with a part-time role, but look for opportunities to take on more responsibility over time as you prove your value. The mentor relationship may develop into a full-time job or career opportunity. But start small by solving important but lower-priority problems.

•Competition is for losers. Use strategies like identifying fast-growing companies and startups, then reaching out to offer your help. Don’t rely on job fairs or postings where you have to compete against many other candidates. Set yourself apart through a targeted, value-focused approach to finding a mentor.

•Make the time commitment to truly benefit from the mentor relationship. Don’t just get coffee—do real work, sit in on meetings and calls, watch them in action, and be fully engaged in learning. The more time and effort you put in, the more you’ll gain.

That covers the key highlights for finding and developing a strong relationship with a mentor to accelerate your career success. Let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any part of the summary.

• Urgent and important tasks usually require the mentor’s skills and knowledge and cannot be delegated. These are the tasks only the mentor can do.

• Urgent but unimportant tasks contain a mix of skilled and unskilled work that can potentially be delegated. The mentor’s delegation abilities and team determine if these tasks get delegated.

• Unskilled tasks like scheduling calls or booking travel can be delegated to an assistant. Skilled tasks that require some understanding of the mentor’s work and audience are better delegated to a mentee.

• The ideal tasks for a mentee are valuable enough to be informative but less valuable than what the mentor could do. Mentors should focus on their most valuable work.

• Talk to the mentor, analyze their competition, or reverse engineer their goals to identify tasks they wish they had time for but can’t prioritize. Create something immediately valuable as a “gift” to signal your worth.

• Reach out to potential mentors with transparency, humility, and by showing you won’t waste their time. Share an example of your work that solves an immediate problem. Focus the conversation on how you can help.

• Be willing to move on from your mentor as you develop your own skills and comparative advantage. Trade up to mentors with even more valuable time. Even CEOs find mentors to improve their leadership.

• Simon landed a mentor in under 4 months by researching video production companies, reaching out with examples of his work, and staying in touch. His mentor eventually gave him project work, then hired him full-time. Simon turned his creative hobby into a paid career by finding the right mentor.

• Avoid burnout and continue getting important work done by using a simple personal project management system like the Result-Orient-Keep (ROK) system.

• Productivity systems often fail because they require big habit changes that are hard to stick to and they encourage focusing on getting everything done rather than priorities. The ROK system avoids these issues.

• Anchor the ROK system to your existing habits and schedule to make it easy to adopt. Look for “hooks” in your current routine to build on.

• Focus on the results and work that really matters to move your career forward. Don’t get distracted by busywork and less important tasks.

• Tailor how you schedule your time to match how you work best. Use large blocks of uninterrupted time if that suits you or smaller focused blocks if needed. The goal is getting the results you need.

• Identify the key results you need to achieve. Plan how you will orient your schedule to focus on those results. Keep track of new tasks that come in without losing focus.

• Start small by applying parts of the ROK system that easily fit into your current habits and schedule. Don’t try to overhaul everything at once. Make gradual progress.


• Focus on results, not being busy. Prioritize the work that really matters.

• Build new productivity habits gradually by anchoring them to your existing habits and schedule.

• Tailor how you schedule your time to how you work best to achieve the results you need.

• Use a simple system like ROK to avoid burnout, stay focused, and confidently take on new projects. Start small and make progress over time.


  1. Identify 3-5 results you need to achieve to advance your career. These are your priorities to schedule time for.

  2. Look for 3 “hooks” or existing habits in your routine to anchor parts of the ROK system to. Plan to start applying ROK to just these hooks.

  3. Decide if you do your best work in large blocks of uninterrupted time or smaller focused blocks. Schedule the next week to match.

  4. Review your schedule for the next week. Block off time for your key results and shuffle less important work around them. Make sure to also schedule in time for yourself.

  5. Start using the ROK system by just focusing on 1 result and 1-2 hooks this week. Build from there over the coming weeks and months. Make it a habit.

Focus on the results that actually move the needle, not just tasks or busywork. Each week, determine the single most impactful result you need to achieve to make progress. This is your Weekly Result.

Ask yourself: “In order to get closer to [your goal], this week I must…” Frame the answer around outcomes and deliverables, not just tasks. The result should be concrete and measurable.

Prioritize to choose the most important Weekly Result. Consider the outcomes each potential result would generate and how those outcomes help you achieve your goal. The result that provides the most clarity and helps enable future progress is probably the most important one.

With your Weekly Result defined, orient everything around achieving it. Don’t just make a to-do list—prioritize your time and tasks to support generating that result. Remove obstacles and distractions. Hold yourself accountable for achieving the Weekly Result, then move on to determine next week’s most important result.

The key tools for this process are simple writing tools to capture your thinking, like a notebook, Evernote, Voice Memos, or talking through your options with an advisor. The goal is to end up with one concrete Weekly Result to work toward, not just a list of nebulous tasks. Achieve that result, make progress, and repeat.

• Orient your week by scheduling your most important, result-generating tasks early in the week. Put them at the beginning of the week when you have the most energy and focus. This helps ensure you make progress toward your Weekly Result, even with unpredictable disruptions.

• Use backward induction to determine the sequence of specific tasks required to achieve your Weekly Result. The first actionable task is your “First Task.” Schedule this for early Monday morning. If you complete only your First Task and mandatory meetings, your week will still be a success.

• Also schedule “Task Times”—blocks of time dedicated to working toward your Weekly Result, though the specific tasks may not yet be determined. The length of Task Times depends on whether you need a “Maker’s Schedule” (longer, uninterrupted periods) or “Manager’s Schedule” (shorter periods). Put more Task Times early in the week.

• Ensure any remaining unscheduled time is reserved for handling “Keep” items like distractions, crises, and non-urgent tasks. By planning your week this way, you make progress on what matters most and avoid feeling overwhelmed or burned out.

• The timing of your Task Times depends on when you are most productive. If you work better in the mornings, schedule important work then. If you prefer afternoons or evenings, schedule accordingly. The key is protecting that time to focus on high-priority tasks.

• In summary, win your week by scheduling high-priority, result-generating work early and often, leaving adequate buffer room for the unexpected. This approach helps you feel focused and in control rather than constantly behind and burned out. Make progress on what matters to you by designing your days and weeks for success.

• Your personal brand is your reputation and what people associate with you. It exists whether you build it intentionally or not. You have a choice to craft it or let others define it for you.

• A personal brand is a powerful tool to get ahead in your career. It shows others your skills, value, and why they should work with you. It acts as your own marketing department.

• Focus on substance over fluff. A good personal brand demonstrates your knowledge, experience, and the value you provide. It is not just self-promotion.

• A personal brand is not:

  • Just being active on social media or YouTube
  • Having a blog alone
  • Running a business under your own name
  • About pursuing vanity

• You need to achieve, build or overcome something to have a personal brand. Your accomplishments don’t have to be huge, but you need substance.

• A personal brand acts like an always-on resume, helping the right people find you even when you’re not looking. It provides career security.

• The key steps to building your personal brand are:

  1. Define your niche and ideal clients
  2. Build a website to be your home base
  3. Share your knowledge and expertise through content
  4. Be active in your industry communities
  5. Network both online and offline

• Consistently work on your personal brand over time through your website, content, networking and referrals. Make it a habit and part of your weekly routine.

Does this summary cover the key highlights from the section? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any of the points.

• A personal brand attracts the right opportunities by signaling your strengths to the right people. It allows you to reach influential people and bring opportunities to you.

• Focus on reaching the right people who need your help, not just the most people. Build a brand that attracts and retains the attention of key people in your field. This gives you “local star power” and status within your niche.

• Do a personal brand audit by googling yourself to see what signals you’re currently sending. Improve your signals by building a personal website and social media profiles that highlight your strengths.

• Know your niche and the strengths they care about. Focus your signals on those strengths to capture local star power. Become the go-to person for opportunities like consulting or public speaking in your field.

• Your personal brand takes work up front but then continues to work for you over the long run. Create evergreen content like blogs, videos, and downloads that drive interest for months and years.

• Position yourself as an authority by highlighting your credentials, expertise, work experience, and credibility markers. Show why others should want to work with you.

• Promote your brand across platforms to reach more people. Use social media, blogging, videos, news media, and word-of-mouth marketing. Make it easy for others to find and share your work.

• Keep improving and revising your personal brand over time as your experience and goals change. Stay relevant in your field and keep reaching higher levels of authority and influence.

Here’s a summary:

Focus on a niche, don’t worry about being the best or most talented. Just be good enough to stand out. It’s better to start small and grow than start too big.

Your personal website is central to your brand. Use it to get people to take action and leave with a specific impression of you. Think of it like a company site, not just a blog.

To get started:

  1. Buy a simple, memorable domain name like Also consider variations to redirect.

  2. Put a positioning statement on your home page saying who you are, what you do, how, and for whom. Focus on disqualifying the wrong audience. Ex: “I help ambitious professionals learn career skills”.

  3. Share endorsements from respected people in your industry or target audience. Aim for 4-6 to start.

  4. Explain your expertise and ideal clients, and show your solutions or services. List ways for people to work with you.

  5. Share case studies, examples of your work, and its impact. Show you can achieve results.

  6. Blog regularly to establish yourself as a knowledgeable voice in your niche. Share how-tos, insights, updates.

  7. Be active and intentional on a few key social networks. Focus on platforms your audience uses, and drive them back to your site.

  8. Start pitching media to get featured as an expert source. Reporters need experts and influencers as sources. Pitch yourself!

  9. Repeat and optimize. Track what’s working, get feedback, make improvements. Build on your momentum.

Your personal brand is how the right people see you as the only solution to their problems. Start building that perception through your online presence and the work you do. Keep at it, focus on serving others, and the opportunities will come.

Here are some tips for posting on your blog:

• Start by posting at least once a week. This could be a long article, or just a short update. The key is to post regularly and consistently. Your readers will come to expect new content from you, and Google prefers websites that are updated frequently.

• Don’t post too often, especially when you’re first getting started. Shooting for 2-3 posts per week is a good target. Posting daily could overwhelm readers and lower the quality of your content.

• Vary the length and format of your posts. Include long-form, in-depth articles, as well as shorter posts. You can also share photos, videos, podcasts, resources, and updates. This variety will keep your readers engaged.

• Focus on quality over quantity. While posting regularly is important, don’t sacrifice the value and usefulness of your content just to stick to a schedule. It’s better to post a little less often with high-quality content than to post frequently with mediocre content.

• Pay attention to your analytics and see how your readers respond to different posting frequencies. You may find that your readers prefer longer, in-depth articles just once a week. Or they may want shorter updates a few times a week. Let your audience guide you.

• Don’t get stuck posting at exactly the same time every week. While consistency is good, varying your posting schedule slightly, even by just 30-60 minutes, can lead to higher readership. Posts that go live at the exact same time each week may start to get lost in the shuffle.

• Take breaks when needed. It’s OK to take short breaks from posting, especially around holidays or if you have a lot going on in your personal or professional life. Just be sure to let your readers know when the break will be and when you plan to resume posting. Staying engaged with your readers during breaks will help ensure they come back when you start posting again.

In summary, start by posting 1-2 times per week with a mix of long and short content. Pay attention to your readers and analytics to determine the ideal posting frequency and format for your audience. Focus on quality over quantity, vary your posting schedule slightly, and take short breaks when needed while staying engaged with your readers. Following these tips will help you establish an effective yet sustainable blogging rhythm.

The key to effective content creation is building the habit of creating content regularly. Don’t create some content, ignore your site for months and then create more content. Focus first on consistency.

Ask your audience what they want to know more about.Their questions can inspire new content. You can survey them directly or look at Q&A sites like Quora. Pay attention to what content resonates most with your audience and create more of that.

Include relevant links to your social profiles and any platforms you actively use. But only include links that are directly relevant to your positioning and audience.

Don’t use a generic contact form. List your email address directly and invite people to reach out to you. Don’t worry too much about spam or getting too many emails. You want to build direct relationships.

Advanced elements to include:

•A lead magnet: Offer something of value like a free guide, checklist or course to get people to give you their email address. A good lead magnet can triple your email signup rate.

•Drip campaign: Set up a series of automated emails to new email subscribers to keep them engaged. You can reuse older content or create new content. A drip campaign ensures subscribers continue to hear from you regularly even when you’re busy.

To set up a drip campaign for new subscribers only:

  1. Select at least five campaign emails to include in your drip sequence. Remove any references to current events so the content stays evergreen.

  2. Schedule the first email to send within a week of someone joining your email list. Send the subsequent emails a week apart from each other.

  3. Use email marketing tools like Mailchimp or ConvertKit to automate your drip campaign. They have functionality to send campaigns to specific segments of your list, like new subscribers.

  4. Test and optimize your drip campaign to improve open and click-through rates. A good benchmark is to aim for rates above your industry average.

  5. Congratulations! You now have an automated series of emails set up to engage your new subscribers. This continues the conversation even when you’re busy with other work.

The key steps are selecting evergreen content, scheduling the emails to send automatically at the right cadence, using email marketing tools to target new subscribers, and optimizing the campaign over time. An automated drip campaign is a great way to provide value to new subscribers and keep them engaged.

  • To build your personal brand, you have to actively promote it, just like companies do for their brands. You can’t just create a website and expect traffic.

  • Use “brand builders” like social media, blogging, podcasting, and media appearances to drive traffic to your website and raise your visibility. These brand builders have a compounding effect and continue providing value over time.

  • Place your brand builders where your target audience spends time. Tailor your content and promotions to your specific audience. Provide valuable lead magnets, like checklists or guides, to capture audience interest.

  • Some proven brand builders include:

  • Q&A websites like Quora and Reddit: Answer questions on these sites and link to your website. Moderate learning curve but variable audience quality.

  • Interviewing others on your website: Interview influential people in your field and publish the interviews on your site. Start with easier targets and work your way up to more influential people. Provides evergreen content and can drive traffic from the interviewee’s audience. Low learning curve.

  • The key is to start small and work your way up to bigger targets and opportunities, a process known as “trading up the chain.” Look for ways to promote your brand builders to capture more traffic and grow your audience over time.

Here is a summary of the strategy:

Strategy: Earned Media Contributing Quality of Audience: High

Find media outlets, podcasts, and shows that your target audience enjoys and values. Pitch yourself as an expert contributor to deliver analysis or commentary on topics related to your positioning. This provides you access to large, qualified audiences.

To get started:

  1. Make a list of media outlets (websites, podcasts, TV shows) your target audience reads, listens to, or watches. Prioritize by audience size and relevance.

  2. For each media outlet, note their contributor guidelines and submission process. Some may allow pitches for new contributors; others may require you to start as an unpaid guest.

  3. Develop three unique angles or topics you could discuss as a contributor for each media outlet. Make sure these align with their content and your positioning.

  4. Pitch the media outlets on your proposed contributions. Explain why you’re uniquely suited to provide that analysis or commentary. Mention your relevant experience and expertise.

  5. Promote any earned media appearances to your own audience. This makes you more valuable to the media outlet and exposes your content to new people.

The key is targeting media that values expertise and analysis, not just clicks or controversy. Focus on becoming a regular contributor, not just a one-off guest. Build relationships with producers and editors.

This does require work to identify and pitch the right media outlets. But placing your ideas and commentary in front of audiences that already follow and respect those media outlets is incredibly valuable. The media outlet has done the hard work of building that audience; you just have to earn access to it through your contributions.

Tools: BuzzStream, a influencer marketing platform, can help discover new media outlet targets. Also, do manual searches of media your target audience enjoys. is useful for monitoring media outlet requests for sources and experts.

Learning curve: Moderate to high. This requires PR skills and the ability to persuade media outlets of your value. But the reward of access to large, qualified audiences is worth it.

• You don’t have to be a professional journalist to contribute to major publications. Many accept contributions from industry experts and professionals.

• There are two ways to become a contributor:

  1. The passive approach: Publish content on your own and hope publications republish it. Identify which sites their editors frequent. Build a relationship if your content gets republished.

  2. The active approach: Directly pitch editors on publishing your content. Solve a problem for them by providing content to meet their quotas. Follow the same process as guest blogging. Offer to promote the content to your audience.

• Contributing to publications is better for credibility than traffic. Major publications are low- to moderate-quality traffic sources due to news cycles. Consider your goals.

• Industry publications, like trade magazines and academic journals, are important for establishing authority in your field. Pursue media coverage in news-driven or research-driven publications that your audience reads.

• Landing earned media coverage in news-driven publications requires relationship building and understanding journalists’ incentives. Don’t just issue press releases. Identify journalists who cover your industry and build relationships with them. Pitch stories from angles that will interest their readers and meet their traffic or subscription goals. Use media lists to keep track of relevant journalists and publications. Pitch them with a newsworthy story, your angle, and an offer for an exclusive. Follow up and ask for other potential contacts if they say no.

• The key is solving the problems and meeting the needs of editors and journalists. Provide them with content and stories their audiences will care about.


•Build relationships with journalists over time by offering to act as a source for their stories. This establishes you as an authority in your field and leads to opportunities like being quoted or featured.

•Publishing in research journals establishes authority and credibility, especially for academics and professionals in research-driven fields. Choose a niche, focus on building a body of work, and promote your papers to drive traffic.

•Podcasting is a way to build an audience by interviewing interesting people. Develop a plan, choose good positioning, line up high-quality guests, focus on audio quality, and promote the show through your network and social media.

•Appearing as a guest on established podcasts is a way to reach new audiences. Build relationships with podcast hosts, understand what they look for in guests, and get recommendations from people already in their networks.

•Low learning curve strategies like media lists and trading up the chain take time but are accessible. Research-driven publishing and podcasting have higher learning curves but bigger payoffs.


•Haley Hoffman Smith got major media coverage by building relationships with journalists over time.

•Jason Brennan established himself as an expert in arguments against democracy by publishing in academic journals.

•Molly Beck built her business and career through starting her own podcast and appearing on other podcasts as a guest.

In summary, the key to effective personal branding is developing and promoting high-quality work by whatever means are most appropriate and impactful for your industry and goals. While the specific tactics may differ, the principles of positioning, relationship building, and providing value to your audience remain consistent.

New podcast hosts and those struggling to find guests can benefit from a cold email pitch from an eloquent, qualified guest. Start with smaller podcasts and work your way up through introductions to larger shows. Identify podcasts with audiences that match your own, pitch the hosts, and ask for introductions to other podcasters. Pitching podcast hosts through cold email is challenging but signaling the right traits is key. Offer a lead magnet for listeners and ask the podcaster for introductions.

Starting a vlog follows similar principles as a podcast but requires more time and higher production quality. Focus on storytelling, featuring others, and engaging the audience. Build a sense of community. Consider outsourcing editing to a virtual assistant. Successful vlogs provide value to viewers.

Side projects and mini products demonstrate you understand your audience’s needs. They provide opportunities beyond your expertise and area of focus. First build an audience of at least 1,000 subscribers. Then launch the product to them and on platforms like Product Hunt. A good Product Hunt launch can yield 1,000+ qualified subscribers. Engage with them as you would your personal brand audience.

Most people use social media incorrectly for personal branding by just sharing content and expecting traffic. It requires understanding your audience, authenticity, and consistency. Push audiences to your website and email list. Some succeed by bringing a unique voice and understanding audiences on specific platforms.

Becoming a social media pro requires researching what works where. Platform algorithms change often. Outsource expertise or hire a teacher. Ask what content succeeds and why, what to avoid, ideal posting frequency, who to target, whether to tag others, how to follow, etc. Social media takes trial-and-error and knowing your audience. Consider your opportunity cost first.

Virtual conferences are collections of prerecorded webinars for attendees to watch when they want. They cost less than live events but provide evergreen value. Determine a theme, ideal speakers, and follow a process like podcast guest outreach. Want eloquent, knowledgeable speakers. Keep recordings and promote repeatedly. Ask speakers to promote to their audiences. Use a service to host and charge attendees. Offer lead magnets, bonuses, and community. Promote on social media and paid ads.

Start by inviting medium-tier guests with large enough audiences to drive registrations. Use their audiences and registration numbers to attract top-tier guests. Give guests the opportunity to promote to attendees. Guests join to drive traffic to their sites. Show them registration numbers to get them to join.

Announce the event and ask confirmed guests to do the same. Limit public access to increase sign-up rates.

You can charge to access talks outside the event window. Have a free tier and premium tier. Premium gives anytime access. Free gives access during the event only.

Record talks via Zoom. Get speaker bonuses to advertise. Email attendees before, during and after the event. Ask for feedback. Offer to upgrade free users after the event.

High learning curve. Need patience, technical skills, email list. Use Virtual Summits, Zoom, Mailchimp. High-quality audience. Example: Men of Character.

Your brand dominates but build locally too. Don’t compete, grow. Grow your network. Build collateral. Capture local star power.

Speak at local schools and companies. Credibility. Audience. Collateral.

Research departments and classes. Use connections or email. Focus talks on examples. Engage through Q&A. Get email sign-ups.

Follow up in 48 hours. Publish notes and slides. Thank instructors. Meet if possible. Evidence for other schools.

Low learning curve. Use YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare. Variable quality audience. Fit positioning, not prestige.

Host your own workshop or event.

reasons: You control branding, messaging, sponsored, attendee list opens, money. Promote across your platforms. Record for YouTube and social media.

Struggling? Start small. Growth takes time. You’re learning, improving, forming habits. Don’t measure against experts when you’re building foundations. Progress, not perfection. Build momentum, skills, and confidence over time.

• Hosting events like conferences, workshops, and seminars is difficult but can establish you as an expert in your field. Start small by organizing a local workshop for under 25 people. Pitch to your employer to host a professional development event or life skills workshop. Build up from there.

• Host invite-only dinners or parties to engage your local network in an informal, low-cost way. Invite a few close friends to guarantee a minimum turnout, then invite acquaintances you want to connect with. Brand the event as people coming together to share a meal, not a networking event. This approach feels authentic, not transactional.

• Strong personal brands showcase skills, knowledge, and positive traits. They accelerate career, business, and life goals by signaling your value to an extended network. Three examples of successful personal brands:

  • Josh Blackman focused on blogging about constitutional law. He became known as a quick, prolific analyst of Supreme Court opinions. This led to book deals, speaking engagements, and a law professor position.

  • Kelly Hackmann wrote a blog post on his approach to sales that showcased positive traits. This landed him a remote job in startup sales, despite limited experience. His personal brand signaled more than just skills.

  • Vanessa Musi has a personal brand focused on healthy, Spanish-language recipes. This aligns with her business, a bakery that produces paleo, gluten-free, and low-sugar goods for the Hispanic community. Her brand amplifies her business beyond its own branding.

• The key is focusing on your positioning long enough to outlast competitors. Build a hub of content that signals your positive traits and value. When the right opportunity arises, you’ll be poised to take advantage of it.

Build a world-class network by:

  1. Focusing on value, not sleaziness or selfishness. Provide value to others through introductions, recommendations, and help. People will want to connect with you.

  2. Reaching out directly to busy and influential people you want to connect with. Do research to find their contact information and send a personalized email or message. Mention specific ways you can provide value. Don’t ask for anything except a short call or meeting.

  3. Looking for mutual connections and getting introductions. Check LinkedIn, mutual Facebook friends, or even do a Google search. Ask your mutual connection for an email introduction. Make it easy for the busy person by suggesting a call.

  4. Starting with what you know. Don’t feel like you have “no network.” Start with friends, former colleagues, mentors, and people you went to school with. Reach out and strengthen those connections. Ask them for advice and introductions. Your network will grow from there.

  5. Focusing on learning, not selling. Go into calls and meetings with the intention of learning from the other person and finding ways to be helpful. Don’t try to sell them or ask for favors. Building a relationship and network takes time.

  6. Following up and staying in touch. Send a thank you email after connecting with someone. Share relevant articles or make more introductions. Wish them happy birthday or congratulate them on professional milestones. Nurturing relationships leads to a strong, mutually beneficial network.

In summary, build a world-class network by taking initiative, focusing on value, learning from others, nurturing relationships, and starting with the network you already have. With work, anyone can build connections and gain access to influential people.

• Most people approach networking the wrong way by going to generic networking events. These rarely lead to valuable connections and waste time.

• You need to network vertically, not horizontally. Build relationships with people above you who can help your career, not with people at your current level.

• Savvy business people know to build relationships with key decision makers, not their subordinates. This allows them to gain access and referrals much faster.

• Look for people with decision making power, social proof (influence), and referral power (valuable networks). These people can help boost your career.

• Think about the opportunity cost of people’s time. The most valuable people for your network have little time to waste and prefer high-value activities. They are unlikely to attend generic networking events.

• The “Seven Deadly Sins of Networking” are common mistakes that waste time and prevent you from building an effective network:

  1. Going to generic “networking events”

  2. Collecting business cards

  3. Nepotism and favoritism

  4. Impressing vs. adding value

  5. Pitching vs. listening

  6. Following up to get something vs. to build a relationship

  7. Not helping others in your network

• Focus on providing value to others, listening, and building authentic relationships. Your network should be about mutually helping each other, not collecting contacts.

• With the right approach, you can build a strong professional network to help boost your career opportunities. But avoid the common mistakes that most people make.

• Avoid networking events where the primary purpose is networking. Look for events where networking is a secondary benefit. These tend to attract higher quality connections.

• Avoid transactional relationships. Build genuine relationships by showing interest in others and helping them. Transactional relationships feel forced and people won’t invest in them.

• Don’t ignore people of lower status. Treat everyone well and show interest in them. You never know who may end up being helpful, and high status people respect those who treat others well.

• Avoid common networking “scripts.” Ask unexpected but positive questions to make a memorable impression. Leave people with a good feeling about you.

• Develop a social hobby where you can meet people in a casual context. This gives you an excuse to meet one-on-one and turns networking into an enjoyable activity.

• Follow up within 48 hours with an appropriate, personalized message. Mention details from your conversation as “relationship triggers” to help the person remember you. This shows you were listening and not just spamming them.

• Don’t pitch or ask for favors too soon. Networking is like dating - build the relationship and social capital over time before major asks. People help those who have proved they won’t waste time or make them look bad.

• Accrue social capital through positive interactions over time. Think of it like a bank account - make deposits through good experiences together and people will make withdrawals by helping and introducing you. But it takes time!

To build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with influential people (VBPs), first identify who specifically you need to meet and why. Once you know the types of people, research where they spend their time, such as at work-related, charitable, or leisure events and in publications. This information gives you opportunities to connect with them organically.

When making connections, be mindful of the social capital or goodwill you have built up in the relationship. Asking for favors or making requests draws down on your social capital. Building rapport and trust, proving your competence, and providing value first allows you to make occasional asks without damaging the relationship. If you overdraw on social capital by making too many asks too quickly, your requests are less likely to be obliged, and you have to work to rebuild trust and goodwill.

A “Mindful Network” combines developing relationships with Very Busy People at multiple career stages. These relationships are built on sincerity and mutual benefit, not transactions or shallow networking. With a Mindful Network, you have a group that actively refers opportunities to you and makes introductions on your behalf. This allows you to influence and access opportunities even when you cannot be directly involved.

In summary, thoughtful, strategic relationship building with key people leads to a strong professional network that continues to create value for you over the long term. Be discerning in who you connect with, provide value first before making asks, and nurture relationships at all levels to open up more opportunities. With this approach, you create your own “personal salesforce” working on your behalf.

Find “super-connectors”—people who connect and build relationships with very busy and important people (VBPs) as part of their job. Build relationships with the super-connectors to gain access to the VBPs.

To find super-connectors:

  1. Look at who interviews or features the VBPs you want to meet. For example, podcasters, journalists, etc. These people have to build relationships with the VBPs, so they are super-connectors.

  2. Look at people whose jobs require networking with the VBPs. For example, nonprofit fundraisers, PR professionals, high-end salespeople, etc.

  3. Research where the super-connectors spend their time, like at work events, conferences, publications they contribute to, etc. These are “honeypots” where you can meet the super-connectors.

To connect with super-connectors:

  1. Ask for introductions from people already in your network. Be as specific as possible about the kind of super-connector you want to meet.

  2. Meet super-connectors at the honeypot events you researched. Start a conversation, get their business card, and follow up. Mention something memorable from your conversation.

  3. Send targeted cold emails to super-connectors. Reference how you know about them, your shared interests, and ask for a quick call to learn more about their work. Have a “blurb” ready to send about yourself.

The key is to build genuine relationships with the super-connectors, not just use them as a means to an end to meet the VBPs. Focus on learning from the super-connectors and helping them, and the connections to VBPs will follow.

After meeting someone at an event, send a follow-up email to remind them of who you are and try to continue the conversation. Follow-ups can be actionable (asking for a meeting) or nonactionable (just building the relationship). With super-connectors, ask for a meeting to start building the relationship.

To build your network, use cold outreach like emails. Find reasons to reach out to people by consuming their content. In your email, introduce yourself, reference your common connection, explain why you’re reaching out, and ask for a specific action. Use your personal brand to establish credibility. Acknowledge what you don’t know to appear more sincere.

Don’t treat super-connectors as a means to an end. Build real relationships with them. To activate them, focus on passive and active referrals. For passive referrals, stay top of mind by sharing relevant content. For active referrals, determine exactly what you would ask for in an introduction. Then reach out to your super-connector for an introduction.

To build a world-class network, start by determining your positioning like a consulting business owner did. He attended industry events, cold emailed leading experts, started a podcast, and asked for introductions. He offered “forwardable blurbs” to make introductions easy and to clearly convey what he wanted. The blurbs answered “what’s in it for me” to encourage people to speak with him. Overall, networking requires follow-up, building relationships, using your platform, asking for what you want, and making it easy for others to connect you.

  • You are a salesperson for yourself and your personal brand, whether you like it or not. Closing new opportunities is important for your career growth and development.

  • Closing new opportunities gives you three key advantages:

  1. Better negotiation and confidence. When you have other options, you have more leverage and confidence in negotiations. You care less if any one opportunity does not work out.

  2. Improved skills. Pitching yourself and closing new deals are skills that atrophy without practice. Regularly pursuing new opportunities keeps these skills sharp.

  3. Increased self-awareness. Going after new opportunities exposes you to feedback on how to improve and what skills are most in demand. You discover what you don’t know about the market and yourself.

  • Most people only look for new opportunities when they are unhappy in their current role. But this puts them at a disadvantage. It is better to regularly pursue new opportunities to gain the advantages of better negotiation, improved skills, and increased self-awareness.

  • An example is provided of a friend who felt “trapped” in his job. By interviewing for new roles, even without taking them, he gained confidence to ask for a raise and more engaging work. He got an alternative that improved his current role.

  • In closing, the key message is that regularly pitching yourself for new opportunities, even if you do not take them, provides benefits through sharpening your skills, increasing your confidence and self-awareness, and improving your negotiation position. These advantages compound over time.

What you did wrong:

  • You lacked important skills and experience that the company was looking for in a candidate.
  • You overestimated your chances of getting the job based on your existing portfolio and skills.

What you can do better:

  • Ask for specific feedback on what skills and experience you need to build to be a strong candidate for roles like this in the future.
  • Don’t ignore the importance of soft skills and tacit knowledge in different industries and roles. Do research to understand what is really required to succeed in your target opportunities.
  • View rejections and failures as learning opportunities. Ask for feedback and use it to improve for the next time.
  • Continue building your skills, experience, portfolio, and network. Work on developing a strong “talent stack” that combines multiple complementary skills.
  • Look for “asymmetric opportunities” that have a high potential reward but low risk to pursue. These allow you to gain valuable experience and signals with minimal downside.
  • Consider the intangible rewards of opportunities like building new relationships, acquiring endorsements, developing success stories, etc. The rewards of an opportunity extend beyond money alone.
  • Strategically pursue some high-risk, high-reward opportunities that can accelerate your progress toward your long-term goals. But do so carefully and thoughtfully.
  • Re-examine your assumptions about the risks of opportunities. The risks are often lower than initially perceived due to reversibility and overestimation of opportunity costs. Get facts from others who have pursued similar opportunities.
  • Make a detailed plan for pursuing an opportunity to ensure you can balance it with your existing responsibilities. Don’t sacrifice success in your current work or role.

In summary, view rejections and failures as a chance to learn. Ask for honest feedback and use it to build the skills, experience, and signals you need to achieve your goals. Look for low-risk, high-reward opportunities to gain experience, but also take calculated risks on bigger strategic opportunities. Have a thoughtful plan in place to pursue new opportunities without dropping the ball on your existing work and responsibilities. Continuous learning and improvement will set you up for success.

Your career goals are to launch a high-growth startup. You believe you have identified a strategic opportunity to pursue.

To determine if an opportunity is strategic or reckless, evaluate it based on your goals and priorities. A strategic opportunity will align with your key goals and priorities.

When pitching yourself for an opportunity:

  1. Ensure the organization or individuals you are pitching to have the means to compensate you. Small businesses and startups may be more open to new opportunities but less able to pay. Focus on organizations and individuals with steady cash flow.

  2. Do research to understand the problems and needs of the organization or individuals you want to pitch to. Develop a plan to address their key problems. This will make it hard for them to say no.

  3. Use “incentive mapping” to identify what the organization or individuals want to achieve and avoid. Frame your pitch around helping them achieve and avoid these outcomes. Speak in the same language they use.

  4. Set clear expectations and outcomes that you can confidently achieve. Underpromise so you can overdeliver.

  5. Be specific in your pitch by referring to the problems and outcomes identified through incentive mapping. Don’t use jargon. Speak in the language real people use.

  6. Use “risk reversal” techniques like offering a trial period, refund period or sharing success stories and social proof. This reduces the perceived risks of working with you.

  7. Charge a rate that matches your positioning and experience. If just starting out, begin at a lower rate and increase quickly as you gain experience and success.

  8. Focus on overdelivering and exceeding expectations. This can make the organization dependent on you and grateful for your contributions. They may increase your compensation to retain you.

  9. Ask for what you want. Don’t assume you will receive increased compensation or a long-term role without asking. You need to request these things to have a chance at getting them.

In summary, do your research, set clear expectations, overdeliver, build goodwill and ask for what you want. This approach can help you land strategic opportunities that align with your key goals. Let me know if you have any other questions!

The key steps in the process are:

  1. Focus: Define your goals and priorities. Use tools like Ambition Mapping to determine what you want and why you want it.

  2. Learn: Develop expertise and build your credibility. Pursue a continuous learning mindset and use a Cabinet of Models to learn from others who have achieved what you want.

  3. Execute: Take action and gain experience. Use a framework like ROK (Routine, Objective, and Kanban) to organize your time and tasks. Start working on meaningful projects to build up your experience and skills.

  4. Signal: Build your personal brand and network. Share your work and expertise with others. Write, speak, engage on social media, and get in front of the right audiences. Make genuine connections and build relationships.

  5. Connect: Pitch yourself for new opportunities. Reach out to the right people and pitch the value you can provide. Meet with people, share your goals, and try to work with them. The more you connect and pitch, the more opportunities will come your way.

  6. Close: Evaluate opportunities and negotiate the best deals. Consider the risks and rewards of each opportunity. Choose the options that best align with your priorities and goals. Be willing to say no to opportunities that don’t serve you well. Use your experience and credibility to get the compensation and terms you deserve.

The key is to continually work through this cycle to achieve your goals and advance in your career. Build a growth mindset, stay focused on your priorities, and don’t be afraid to put in the work required to achieve what you want. Pitching yourself for the right opportunities at the right time can lead to career breakthroughs, even if you face rejections along the way. With practice and persistence, you’ll get better at identifying the best opportunities and closing the deals that matter most.

Here is a summary of the references:

• Adams, Scott. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2014. The author shares life lessons and strategies for overcoming failures and setbacks to achieve success and winning in life.

• Bell, Macalester. Hard Feelings: The Moral Psychology of Contempt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. The author analyzes the nature of contempt, its role in moral judgment, and how it shapes relationships.

• Dawson, Roger. Secrets of Power Negotiating, 15th Anniversary Edition: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator. Newburyport: Weiser, 2010. The author provides strategies and techniques for effective negotiating in a variety of situations.

• Klaff, Oren. Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading and Winning the Deal. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. The author offers a method for delivering a persuasive pitch in order to win opportunities and clients.

• Ury, William. Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations. New York: Bantam Books, 2007. The author provides practical strategies for negotiating successfully in difficult and challenging situations.

• Voss, Chris. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It. New York: Random House Business, 2017. An FBI hostage negotiator shares his approach to high-stakes negotiations, focusing on empathy, emotional intelligence, and influence.

Ambition Mapping step 1: Determine what you do not want — Focusing on positive constraints, rather than things you want to avoid in order to help guide your ambition mapping.

Yes, Joe Rogan hosts a popular podcast called “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

Here is a summary of the key points from pages 147 and 149:

Page 147:

  • The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts with over 200 million downloads
  • Getting on The Tim Ferriss Show would be a major credibility and exposure boost for most people
  • However, Tim Ferriss and his team receive thousands of pitches and booking requests for the show, so it’s very difficult to get on
  • The show looks for highly accomplished and interesting people with a unique story or knowledge area to share

Page 149:

  • A better approach than cold pitching Tim Ferriss is to use a strategic progression by first getting on other well-known podcasts in your industry
  • Build your credibility and references by doing interviews on smaller shows, then use those references to pitch Tim Ferriss
  • Look for top podcasts where the host interviews people like you or in your area of expertise
  • Prepare thoroughly for each interview by researching the show and host and crafting a framework for the key points you want to convey
  • Over time, as you gain more experience and credibility, you’ll have social proof and references to include in a pitch to Tim Ferriss, greatly increasing your chances
  • This “trading up the chain” approach is a more effective way to eventually get on major, highly-competitive podcasts and shows

In summary, the key points are: gaining exposure on The Tim Ferriss Show is very difficult; take a strategic approach by first getting on smaller shows in your industry; use these experiences to build credibility and references; and pitch Tim Ferriss when you have strong social proof - this will increase your chances of getting on his popular show.

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About Matheus Puppe