Alex Banayan: Learning From Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jessica Alba, and more
The book Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss is released today. Only now do I fully see how much that title relates to my own life – and perhaps all of our lives.
Let me explain.
A few years ago, the broadcaster Larry King and I were sitting over breakfast -- like we do every day -- when a young guy came to the table.
The young guy’s name is Alex Banayan. Alex had taken a leave from college to write a book about the nature of success. He wanted to know what highly successful people were doing when they were his age in order to identify patterns and pass on tools to his generation.
Alex wished to interview Larry. But Larry didn’t have time that day, so he said something like: “If you’re writing a book you should talk to Cal. He helped me write mine.”
I figured Alex’s answer would tell me something about him. But I’d also been thinking about that question a lot.
It seemed to me that the world was no longer going to have heroes.
I’m talking about people like Muhammad Ali – who stood up to a government for his beliefs when he refused to enter the military during the Vietnam War.
Or Mikhail Gorbachev – who won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping to end the Cold War.
Or Nelson Mandela – who peacefully brought South Africa together after apartheid.
Alex said that there were plenty of heroes for his generation.
“Like who?” I asked.
“Tim WHO? I’ve never heard of him!”
Alex explained that Tim had made a huge impact on his life through the book The 4-Hour Workweek. And that Tim’s second book, The 4-Hour Body, had helped him and his family lose a lot of weight and become healthier.
“Well, that’s great,” I said. But I explained that, in my mind, a hero was somebody that everybody knew.
Alex disagreed. He sensed that in the time of the Internet and fragmented media, heroes would become niche. We would all get the heroes we were looking for.
We had a long conversation about it, and agreed to meet again. There were many more conversations. I became curious about his book, and I agreed to read over his drafts and offer some guidance.
Alex had never written a book before, and there was much to learn, but there was an unexpected twist. The more time we spent together, the more Alex began to mentor me.
I was –and am – an old school guy. And Alex couldn’t believe that someone like myself – who’d met and interviewed Ali, Gorbachev and Mandela while writing for Esquire Magazine – didn’t have a website, Twitter account or an Instagram page. He actually chuckled as he helped me set them up.
Alex was meeting a lot of successful people on his journey, and he thought it would be cool if he could introduce me to Tim Ferriss.
A meeting was arranged, and Tim and I immediately hit it off. Tim invited me to come on his podcast – which, by now, has had more than 200 million downloads. I went on, and had a great time telling stories.
Only now can I see what had happened. Ever since I’d arrived in L.A. to help Larry King write his book, I’d been observing Larry speak every day. I’d gone to his show night after night. I’d watched him do an hour-and-a-half comedy show tour after he left CNN. Unbeknownst to me, I’d picked up patterns by osmosis. What a gift! How many middle-aged people get to have an apprenticeship? And I was mentored by one of the best articulators in the history of the planet.
After I went on Tim’s show, people began to ask me to speak at conferences and events. Everything Larry had passed on to me came out as soon as I started to speak.
Alex recommended one of his childhood friends to represent me. Now I had Kevin The Manager by my side. At a time when magazines were thinning, my entire life was transformed. I started to give talks about how questions could be used for hiring and sales, and about the power of storytelling. I was speaking around the world to crowds of up to 3,000 people and it felt like I was impacting and inspiring more people than ever.
Tim asked me to come on his podcast again. I did, and afterward he said: “You really have to start your own podcast.”
I resisted. I resisted because I was scared.
I’m not a technological guy. And I was nervous that I’d mess up with the wiring or audio levels on the recorder.
But Tim kept at it. “Just ask Larry to sit down with you and interview him,” Tim said. “I’ll put it up on my podcast.”
Kevin The Manager was wise enough to bring in a guy who’d done many podcasts to handle the audio. All I had to do was what I’d been doing all my life – asking questions.
It went great, and there was a wonderful response. The upshot of all this is that today I am putting out my first podcast. It’s called Big Questions. And my first guest is the guy who showed me the new meaning of the word hero – Tim Ferriss.
It’s beautiful that the podcast coincides with the release of Tim’s latest book -- Tribe of Mentors. Mentorship is the answer to a time in our society that seems to become more and more fragmented and disconnected by the day.
Tim’s book asks questions of more than a hundred of the smartest and wisest people in the world. Anyone who reads it will be uplifted, and possibly even transformed.
I hope you’ll pick up Tim’s book.
I also hope you’ll listen to my podcast with Tim on Apple. You can click here (INSERT LINK) to access Big Questions and dive right in.
And I hope you’ll pick up Alex’s book – The Third Door -- when it comes out next spring.
But most of all, I hope you’ll take time out of your day to connect with just the right person. Doesn’t matter if he or she is a generation older or a generation younger.
If you do, that connection may take you to some unexpected and amazing places.