The Best Mindset When Meeting New People
Whenever Dan Sullivan meets someone new, he reminds himself that he’s only the 21st most important person in their life. In this episode, he explains why this is the best way to begin a new relationship.
Here's some of what you'll learn in this episode:
- Why Dan’s importance to someone else isn’t about Dan himself.
- How Dan came by his understanding naturally.
- The reason why Dan doesn’t ask his most important question right away.
- How you can help someone even before creating new value for them.
To move up: To move up on the list of important people in someone’s life, you have to create value for that person’s world.
Based on understanding: Your relationship with a client has to be based on your understanding of what they’re doing and how you can be useful to them.
The only place: The only place you can create value for someone is in their future.
Fear, excitement, and strength: To create value for someone, you have to recognize their fears, excitement, and strengths.
From their past: When you transform someone’s excitement about their future, you’ll also transform the value they see from their past.
Strength to overcome: People can use strengths from their past to overcome fears in their present and future.
Deep D.O.S. Innovation by Dan Sullivan:
Shannon Waller: Hi, Shannon Waller here with Dan Sullivan. And welcome to Inside Strategic Coach. Dan, I'm excited because you said something the other day, and you've said it before, that I wanted to ask you about because I find it very interesting and provocative. And one of the things that you said was, "I know that I'm always number 21." So what does that mean? Because the way you talk about it, for me, is very empowering and thoughtful and a different approach than what most people take.
Dan Sullivan: Well, it has to do with the fact that you meet new people. And I look for a mindset, what kind of mindset when I just met somebody brand new, don't really know the person I've been introduced to them, or they've introduced themselves to me. And it could be, you know, in a wide variety of different situations, I just fall back and say, I'm number 21. And what that means is that, I'm going to communicate that I know that there's 20 more important people in their life than I am. And that if I'm going to be useful to this individual, at all, to move up from number 21 to higher, then it has to be value that I create in their world, and it's not about me.
Now, I don't just meet them, shake hands, and hit 'em with a question, you know, because that would probably be a little bit off putting, but you know, I just feel it in. And you can sort of say, you know, "So what are you shooting for?" You know, "What's exciting?" And I just met two 20-year- olds with a hedge fund and they're creating a brand new hedge fund based on royalty music and a really fascinating project. And within about first five minutes, they kind of told me what it was. And I said, "Well, where you are right now, why is this project so exciting to you? What's so exciting about? I mean, how does this make you more capable working on this project?"
And the two of them just lit up like Christmas trees. And they talked and talked about how this made maximum use of previous experiences they had. And they can see that the project is actually going to make them more capable in something that's getting a lot bigger in the world. So we talked about 15 or 20 minutes. I was there to find out about the fun. But what I wanted to do was find out why they were so in love with the project. And you know, they were so excited to talk to me, and they were asking me questions and everything else.
So my feeling is, always start your relationship with someone else with a question about how they're looking at their future that's really exciting. And you know, and there's dangers in there. And there's opportunities and there's strengths. And I find that just this mental note when I meet him, "Okay, I'm number 21 here. I'm starting at 21." You know, and if I'm going to move up in importance, then it can only be about them being more excited about their future and me being someone who really helped them do that. And that just puts me in a much better position.
You know, it's not like maybe I'll never see the, you know, the whole point, and you made a lot of people and you just never see them. But I always feel that I've done good to the extent that I spent five minutes with someone or 10 minutes with someone. And you know, I think I came by this naturally in the sense that I'm a fifth child. So right off the bat, you know, you got two parents and four larger kids who are more important than you. So right at the start, even before I could count, I was number seven. And you know, I grew up on a farm. So you got to throw in the fields—they're more important. And the corn is more important. The tomatoes are more important. The green beans are more important. You know, the sheep are more important, and getting the crops to the market. So right off the bat, there's just a lot of things that are more important. So I think it drove me towards usefulness.
Shannon Waller: Well, I think that's such a fabulous premise is to go into any relationship not assuming that you should be at the top or that you at least belong in the top five, but actually putting yourself quite far down the list and asking yourself, "Okay, how can I be useful to this person?" And your way of doing it has always been, as long as I've known you, to help people figure out their future. Because as you said before, their past is gone. And the present's happening right now, now, now, now, now.
And the only place that we can hope to create value for someone is actually in the future.
So let's talk a little bit more about D.O.S. And I love how one of our clients renamed the question you asked, what we used to call The R Factor into The Dan Sullivan Question, because, well, I asked the DSQ, and we're like, oh, what's that? Oh, the Dan Sullivan question. We're like, oh, that one? Yeah, that was fun. But the follow-up to that is really around dangers, opportunities, and strengths. So let's talk a little bit more about that. So for people who want to go and use the question to work it into their conversations, they have the follow-up to that, that bigger three-year question, and how does that fit in? How does that fit together?
Dan Sullivan: Yeah, well, the D.O.S. asks the question, you know, what are the dangers that you have that you absolutely want to eliminate as quickly as you can in the future? What are the opportunities? You know, the dangers engender fear, and opportunities engender excitement because you can jump. So you want to know their fear and their excitement. And then where's the confidence that comes from the strengths, you know? So my feeling is, you know, there's kind of a sequence here, that if you can get a handle on what's really keeping their mind on something where they can't really do, it's in the area of dangers, and it can come in a million different forms, depending on the person and their situation. Same thing with opportunities.
And then uniquely, they're the only one who can really talk about their strengths, you know. So the big thing is to get them really, really focused, actually, on their strengths. And what that does, Shannon, it actually allows them to appreciate their past. So a lot of this is about the future. But really, when you transform someone's excitement about their future, you actually also will almost immediately start transforming the value they see from their past because they have certain strengths that have been there all the time. And those strengths are going to be needed in the future to eliminate the fears and actually take advantage of the opportunities.
And I think this is just Humanity 101. This is how the human brain works. We live within our own framework. We come from the center of our own unique universe We're going into a future that's unpredictable. But we do actually know better than anyone else with the agenda has to be ahead in terms of the D, the O, and the S: the dangers, opportunities, and strengths. So where do I want to start that immediately puts me in the most useful position is just to communicate them, that what they are thinking about what they're about is a lot more important to them than I am important to them. So I just want you to remember me, and just have a feeling that, oh, I met this really useful guy.
And it's funny because my sister came up and visited the office for the first time in Toronto, and your mother, Marilyn, asked her, "Well, what was Dan like when he was a boy?" And she said, "Oh, Danny." She called me Danny. And she said, "You know, he was so easy to get along with and he was helpful and he just kind of did his own thing. You know, he just kind of went along. He was no bother, you know, nobody had any trouble with him." And I think I've had this basic instinct on how to not be a problem and actually be a solution from a very early age.
Shannon Waller: Yeah, you really haven't changed.
Dan Sullivan: I have to tell you, I'm fairly consistent with who I was 60, 70 years ago. You know, I think I operate in my 70s closer to who I was when I was six or seven than I did in any of the intervening decades. I think I started off really well and then, you know, got caught up in adolescence, and who knows what they're going to do in their 20s and 30s. I found a rough decade. And I think I recaptured-- I went back and captured a certain approach and a certain instinct that I had as a young boy. And I say, you know, you can be that way in your 70s. And people love it even more because you have far more talent and resources than you did back then. But I think it's just my basic approach towards these thing called other people.
Shannon Waller: Well, I love it because, for me, it's sort of an antidote to arrogance. And also because it's so focused on not just making a difference, the kind of usual ways but just through being useful and the questions you ask. And the thing I love about D.O.S., you know dangers or what people are worried about losing. Opportunities and excitement are what they stand to gain. And then confident people make decisions and actually decide whether or not there is a way that you can be useful for them. So really stopping to focus on people's strengths is a subtle but very profound aspect to this conversation—we do call it The D.O.S. Conversation—that really gives you this incredible prescription of how, if at all, you know, first of all, you've helped them get clear.
So you've already been useful. But then if there is a way where you can help eliminate one of their dangers or maximize one of their opportunities, or reinforce one of their strengths, you've created this usefulness already. So people like oh, I'd actually like to do that with you. And our clients have used this to radically differentiate themselves because, as you said, the conversation's about them, not about you. So thank you, Dan, for sharing this. I love your approach. And I love the value creation aspect of it. And yes, you're very useful. So thank you for that.
Dan Sullivan: Thank you, Shannon.