This is Part 2 of my interview with author Charlie Hoehn. To check out Part 1, where we get into the psychology of self promotion, perfectionism, and the creative process of bringing a product to market, click here.
In Part 2 we get into how to find a mentor, workaholism versus passion, and a controversial piece of health advice Charlie refrained from putting into his latest book…
Recession-Proof Graduate closes on the point that you will have a new working position. When you have such a position, how do you get the most out of it (as a learning experience)?
It’s the same thing as asking for a favor. If you can prove yourself to be indispensable by being someone who gives more than they take, other people will reciprocate.
If you can give, give, give, give, give value to people in positions who can afford to teach you amazing things, introduce you to awesome people, and expose you to incredible and unforgettable experiences, you will be given the things you want, and you don’t even have to ask.
People come to me and say, “how do I get a mentor?” or, “will you be my mentor?”. That’s not how it works.
A true mentorship is never formalised. There’s no magic moment when someone says “I am your mentor”. It’s just a relationship with another person who is in a position to teach you.
I’ve taught a number of people who did work with me some really valuable, cool stuff, and not once did we mention that it was a mentorship or an apprenticeship. It just was what it was. It was a relationship that was mutually beneficial because they could give me something I needed, and I could give them something they wanted.
The best way to approach it is to think in terms of “Who can I give so much to that they would want to spend more and more time with me because I gave them so much?”
That’s really helpful. What other suggestions would you give a 21-or 22-year-old graduate who’s just come out of school?
I gave this talk to a 28-year-old yesterday. An hour-long talk about this very topic.
The first thing you’ve got to recognize is the way that everybody else goes about this is wrong. It does not work. Sending out resumés, sending out cover letters, applying to companies you don’t want to work for is not the way to do this. You need to abandon that completely.
Resumés suck because all they say is, “Hey, here’s my contact info. Here’s what school I went to. Here are some written one-sentence descriptions of things I’ve done, and here are my skills”. Great, that’s perfect if you’re a robot, but the average person has no idea what you’re capable of doing from it. You have to show them.
The way you need to go about getting your name out there is by actually going out and talking to people. You need to have a real-life relationship with these people. Actually talk to people and to sell yourself, and the way to sell yourself is by overcoming their objections:
“I don’t want to have to pay someone right away”.
“I don’t know if this person is trustworthy”.
“I don’t know what kind of work they can do”.
“I don’t know what they have to offer”.
Every single employer is going to have these objections, and they’re going to have them no matter what kind of resumé you show them.
Ideally you would come to them with some ideas or past work that’s similar to what you would be doing for them; a portfolio of sorts. This proves to them: I can do this.
Before making contact, you have to research them. You have to actually take the time and mean what you’re saying; you’re not just bullshitting them.
Say: “There are areas in your business that I think I could help with, and there are some potential problem areas that I might be able to solve as well”.
You have to act like a trusted advisor. Act like somebody who’s on the board of the company. Even though you might be some unemployed, random college kid coming out of left field, act like you’ve already been hired and that you have a stake in the company.
This is a very different mentality from other college graduates who say, “Hey, you’re one of 40 companies I’m talking to over the next month. Will you hire me?”
Add to that: “You don’t have to pay me, you don’t have to hire me on, just let me do a free trial for the next two weeks. I’ll send you the work, let me know what you think, and if you don’t like it, you can throw it away. You’ll never hear from me again, and there will be zero hard feelings. I love what you guys are doing, I want to work on something I care about, and I’m trying to get some experience. It would be a huge honor to just say I tried” – and that becomes very hard to resist.
Even if you don’t get a shot, who cares? You tried.
There is so much opportunity out there, it’s ridiculous. But everyone misses it, and so many companies are falling apart because there’s no one out there being aggressive about going to get those opportunities.
You have to go out and make shit happen for yourself or you’ll be sitting in your parents’ basement till you’re 30.
Communicate your value and be aggressive about giving.
With that in mind, what’s your current stance on whether young people should go to college or not?
I sometimes wish every city was designed to be like a college campus. I think it would be cool to just see communities of people every day, and have it be centered around learning and trying things.
If you can afford it, and you have a good idea of what you want to do – if you’re not obsessive with grades, but obsessed with getting experience in doing stuff – college is a great choice.
College is a great place to go get good at talking to girls (or guys) and a great place to practise being an adult.
The classes that I got the most out of were classes I was not required to take. I would drop into film editing and media classes that fascinated me, and no one ever stopped me. I never took the tests, but I still got to go.
Okay, fantastic. I’d now love to touch on the topic of workaholism. To quote a 2009 piece from your blog Thoughts on Tour, you wrote of being on tour with Tucker Max, “In exchange for remaining in a perma-exhausted state, I’m getting paid to receive a film school-level education in less than six weeks. Sounds like a good deal to me”.
With everything you’ve since been through and subsequently written about in Play it Away, do you still agree with that statement? And from there, what do you think the 22-year-old Charlie would have made of Play It Away had you handed it to him?
I’m so glad I’m doing an interview with somebody who knows my work as well as you. This is really cool.
I think there’s a fine line between workaholism and passion, and I think one is driven by an avoidance of the present.
When I wrote that, I sincerely meant it. I was having so much fun on that tour and surrounded by a bunch of crazy people who were just trying to have a good time. We got to travel around the country, I got to make funny videos – that was my job – and it was just cool. Working my tail off back then, it was totally worth it, and I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.
It got dangerous however when I started pumping myself with stimulants and drugs to fight my body’s ability to recover and sleep properly. I started getting obsessed with the future, rather than just being in the moment. When my thinking became, “This is going to lead to a bigger bank account in the future”, things really started to go awry.
When you’re loving the work, it’s different to when you’re working towards a future promise.
It’s quite hard to grasp, but when you’ve experienced both, you kind of know.
There are still certain parts of every job that aren’t fun, but you know if it’s largely driven by you being in the moment.
I know that around the time of the 4-Hour Body launch, while working with Tim you were getting about an hour’s sleep a night, and getting through it by mega-dosing with vitamin C and L-lysine to stop yourself from getting ill. Are there any tricks/hacks you learned from exhausting periods like this that you still employ today, just to better cope with the day-to-day stress of your life?
I’m a big fan of fasting. Anybody can fast one day a week, and there are really practical reasons to take 24 hours off food, and to only drink distilled water. Your body is hammered with unnatural stuff, and by giving yourself a break to process it once a week, you’re giving yourself a break 52 days out of the year.
There’s tons of science backing the benefits of fasting, it’s not dangerous, and you’re not going to starve. I believe that it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Another big thing for me is taking time away from screens to get outside and play.
I used to just prefer to work. To work all the time and be great at what I did, but I had to learn these lessons the hard way.
No amount of money can be traded for feeling great, having more energy, thinking more clearly, being more vibrant, and feeling more alive.
People will read that and think “Yea, yea” and eventually start breaking down. It happens to everybody at some point. We all know these things intuitively, but until you go through the trial by fire and experience it yourself, it’s a lesson you’re going to have to learn.
Following on from that, in the book you mentioned that friends used to refer you to as the “Chuck Norris of all-nighters”.
How have you been able to get out of the habit, and actually learn to shut off at the end of the day?
There are so many health complications that can come from a lack of sleep.
I used to stay up really late just looking at email and all the other stuff, then roll awake a few hours later and do it all over again. It’s taken a major toll on my health, and I don’t recommend it to anyone else. I’m 28 now, and I had to do a lot of work to reverse adrenal fatigue.
I became a lot more conscious about my quality of sleep, and have tried to stop looking at screens after 9pm. But it’s really hard because the internet is always on.
I would love for somebody to invent something called ‘Office Hours’ that shuts off everything but your phone and text messages past a certain hour, so that say from 8pm to 6am, you can’t access anything on the internet except GPS.
I still struggle with it for sure, but I’m much better than I used to be.
With that mindset are you able to detach yourself from looking at other people who might be going down that road and say, “Okay, I’m the tortoise in this race, and it’s eventually going to catch up with you”?
It’s crazy! I’ve talked to people who are on the verge of adrenal fatigue and burnout. I watched a girl have a panic attack in front of me. People aren’t invincible. We just aren’t.
When you’re young, you can get away with it for a while, but it eventually catches up.
You are punished by your bad habits.
Our lifestyles are really messed up. We stay indoors all day, we deprive ourselves of sunlight, we don’t sleep when it’s night, we eat totally unnatural stuff, we don’t move.
When you don’t act according to nature, nature takes a toll. Slowly but surely, it happens. No one escapes it. Do everything you can to get back in accordance with it.
That about wraps it up. I learned a ton, and hope you did too.
These two books have had an enormous impact on my life, and I think, quite strangely, they make for a very interesting pairing.
I’ve read Play it Away cover to cover three times. The first time I read it I stopped doing some really stupid things. After the second time, I achieved greater balance in my life. Since the third reading, I’ve been having a blast with everything that I do. I can honestly say that I’m living a more enjoyable and fulfilling life as a result of it. It’s given me a mindset shift in how I approach my work and career, and it’s something I think we could all strive to benefit from.