Top Business & Life Lessons Learned Part 3: Authentic Connections, Mastermind groups & Mentors

Marketing-O-Rama / Resources and Tools

Authentic Connections:

Everybody has heard the expression, “It’s not what you know – but who you know – that counts.”

That’s partially true and I’d have to say the ability to create high-level connections has been a big factor in my success over the last 10 years but I’ve never really shared exactly how I think about this.

First off, I really don’t like the word “Networking” to describe a connection. That conjures up the image of somebody walking into a ‘mixer’ and slinging their business cards around like some 2-for-1 Red Lobster coupon. Or going to events that have “speed networking” aspects where you glad-hand 3 dozen people and ask them “What-do-you-do? How-can-I-help-you?”

All of this strikes me as being somewhat cheesy!

So what do you do?

Be genuine: I’ve watched some of my friends, like Joe Polish, who I think are incredible at their connections and it comes from a real genuineness. I see Joe tell really silly jokes and just be himself. That’s really refreshing. Personally, I’ve been known to buy a couple dozen shots and start handing them out at the bar during an event. It totally fits my personality plus it gets people to say ‘Hello’ to me who I wouldn’t normally meet.

When I talk to people I’ve just met I look for any connections we have outside of work. In fact, I purposefully do not ask, “What do you do?” unless they ask me first. Of course, I’m interested but I’d rather find out something unusual about them.

Make Intros: The other thing I consciously think about is who in my existing network can I intro them to or foster a connection with. This is a trait some of the best connectors I know do – they are extremely generous with introductions where it makes sense.

Be distinctive: My friend and business coach, Cameron Herold, former COO of 1-800-Got-Junk, told me about how his team would wear blue logoed vests at seminars and events. People would stop them and ask what 1-800-Got-Junk did or what it was and it was a really good way to stand out. With our metal business cards for Maverick Business Adventures – they stand out and get people showing them around to others around them at a meeting.

Get Diverse: Some of my favorite connections have come out of charities I support or hobbies or different interests. There’s a different connection formed with a common interest first, and business second. What’s more, if you have a shared intense experience you’ll have a much deeper connection. I think that’s one of the reasons Maverick members have done so many deals together and are so eager to help each other. It’s a deeper bond than simply meeting a person at a seminar or event.

Become prolific and prominent: This probably isn’t that big of a secret but it’s worth mentioning. If you can get on stage, write a book, become an expert, etc. – you’ll have people seeking you out.

Follow-up: I admit I don’t do this as well as I could but I shoot quick texts, emails or clippings over to people when I know it’s something they’re interested in.

Get up close and personal: Probably every high-level connection I’ve had has been a result of meeting someone in person. The original intro could have started online or via email – but it was only when you sit down with someone that there’s been a deeper bond. Some of the best ‘in-the-flesh’ connections have come at seminars & events. (ahem…Underground) 😉 Events and seminars are one level of intimacy but I’ve found that having shared experiences really accelerates the level of friendship. That’s why so many deals get done while off-road racing in Baja or paddling a class V river with Maverick Business Adventures.

Another high-level practice I’ve used to make connections and push my business forward is by harnessing the power of Mastermind groups…

MasterMind Groups

“If you can grasp this principle and apply it you may have, for your efforts, whatever you want on this earth!”

Those are the words of Napoleon Hill, who first coined the term “MasterMind” in his widely-regarded “Think & Grow Rich” and “Law of Success” works.

In case you don’t know the story, Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to interview 500 other successful men and women looking for the secret to success. One of the key concepts he discovered was the power of a MasterMind group. Every titan of industry from Henry Ford to Thomas Edison to William Wrigley, Jr. all tapped into this, either “by accident or design” as Hill says.

I’ve been part of multiple MasterMind groups and have run several for the last 4 years. I’ll share the different ways they’ve worked and also how to set-up your own.

Personally, I can count at least $2M+ in revenue that came from ideas generated from my own private MasterMind groups that I never would have figured out on my own. What’s more, my first dream car (Mercedes SL55) was bought and paid for just from one single idea conceived at a MasterMind meeting. Another idea has turned into a $45,000.00+ monthly revenue stream with no end in sight.

And yet another idea (really more of a a tiny tweak) was directly responsible for $290,000.00 in sales during 2 weekends. Those are just a few of the ideas that come to mind immediately – I’m sure if pressed I could recount even more big ideas that came as a direct impact of being part of a MasterMind.

On top of the breakthrough ideas – there are many more reasons a MasterMind can help you reach new levels in your business…

  1. Speed – Imagine the speed that comes from tapping into the collective brain trust of experience and results here. For instance, if you had 12 people in the group testing 1 new thing in their business each month, that’s 12 x 12 = 144 new breakthroughs. It would take you 144 months on your own to be able to get the same information.
  2. Competitiveness – There’s a certain friendly “competitive spirit” among the MasterMind group because nobody wants to show up to a meeting without something to “brag on” or with successes to share. It’s this competitiveness that drives results even further that the group benefits from.
  3. Increased Productivity – A MasterMind group empowers you to become more than you are now. At the meetings you are surrounded by other successful entrepreneurs who spark new ideas and fresh energy!
  4. Accountability – Each MasterMind member gets even more accomplished because they feel accountable to the group for their actions and progress.
  5. Group feeling – When a MasterMind group has been properly selected, each person is cooperating and cheerleading for your best results, efforts and “best-self” to step forward. Quite frankly, it’s pretty lonely being a top performing entrepreneur, so having a group of successful peers who understand you is incredibly important.
  6. New resources and contacts – It’s not unusual to walk away from meetings with a notebook full of new contacts and resources. A MasterMind group lets you tap into shared contacts and unique expertise from other like-minded members.
  7. New perspectives – Each member brings with them a new perspective, model or frame of reference to an issue or idea. It’s exactly these kind of fresh insights that lead to big breakthroughs instead of looking at a situation through the same filter.

I’ve been part of informal and formal Mastermind groups, and typically it works much better when there is some formality to it because that usually increases commitment. If you’re interested in starting your own group you must make sure there are serious commitments and consequences for missing meetings. I’ve been part of groups that meet 1x/month or 1x/quarter and I’ve found that for extremely busy and successful individuals the 3 or 4 times/year in person is ideal.

When I was getting started some of my friends and I started a local group that met 1x/month and that was too much. We then moved to about every other month and that worked better. Then as we got more successful we moved to a quarterly structure and then we slowly dissolved the group.

It’s not to say that monthly can’t work, but normally at the highest level people’s schedules are so hectic that it becomes extremely tough to make happen. Peer-to-peer groups like YPO and EO work have forums (essentially MasterMind groups) which meet once per month. (Silly side note: I guess entrepreneurs don’t grow up because the forum groups have names like Zero Guilt, Suspects Gone Wild, etc.)

These forum groups run monthly since every member does not get a chance to present in depth what they are doing and get advice each meeting. It’s a round-robin. I prefer having each member get advice and give value each meeting.

I’ve also been part of two different Internet MasterMind groups that don’t have a set meeting schedule and simply run via a list-serv. For asking quick questions, getting resources or trading junior high jokes this is a simple format that has benefits. One is still active and I think it has to do with the fact that we were all friends first before we created it.

Now being part of so many different groups – and seeing which ones worked and which ones didn’t – I’ll give you a few pointers:

1) Confidentiality within the group is imperative.

2) Trust among the group (this grows as the group shares more time together).

3) True peer-to-peer with a qualification process (i.e. start-ups and multiple 7-figure business owners don’t typically have the same issues.)

4) Openness and focus on giving – not just taking value.

5) Commitment to the group.

The 2 MasterMind groups I run have a simple (but powerful) format. Each member gets approximately 50 minutes to present something that is working well in their business that other members can use for their own businesses. Then the second half of their presentation time they present a problem or opportunity for the group to help with.

[Note: MasterMind members consist of business owners with a 7-figure business or within ‘striking distance’ of 7-figures. If you’d like to be considered for a spot for 2010/2011 you can download a confidential application here.]

I’m also working on new pilot program for 2010 to combine the deep connections that happen with unique, shared experiences on Maverick trips and the natural evolution of deeper trust between the same group of people over time. It’s going to be called “Maverick Mastermind”. These groups are true Masterminds of elite entrepreneurs ($1M+ businesses) that get together 3 times a year, live, for adventures and business sessions. Essentially a long weekend within a 2 hours drive of their host city. Part of the time will be participating in cool activities like racing, air combat, etc. to create the intense shared experience plus get you out of the office. And the other part of the weekend retreat will be spent getting specific business feedback & brainstorming for each member. The pilot program will take place in the Mid-Atlantic and on the West Coast in early 2010. What’s more, there will also be a chance for the Maverick Mastermind members to have a local young entrepreneurship mentoring opportunity in their community. Contact our office if you’re interested.

Mentors & Thought Provokers

I always believe it’s the people you meet, books you read and experiences you have that influence your life.

As I mentioned in part 1, I learned from Earl Nightingale early on about books/resources/educational material as a “mentorship”. Personally, I still get through a least one book a week for that type of education. But I’ve also been lucky enough to meet & interview many people I look to for their philosophies around life, business and achievement. Here are the ‘Cliff Notes’ versions of what I’ve taken away from just a few.

joseph zilberbaum

My dad, Joseph Zilberbaum – probably my first business hero.

He came to the U.S. with $256 in his pocket for me, my mom and grandmother and built up a small, multiple 7-figure medical equipment company. I learned the immigrant work ethic of starting with nothing and creating. I got marketing/sales experience on the ground that would have taken me 10-15 years somewhere else since I got to succeed or fail based on what I created or produced. I certainly got my entrepreneurial spirit from my father. In fact, one day I’m need to write a post (or book) about the “immigrant success secret” – why American born children are less likely to become millionaires than immigrants.

Aleksandra Silverbaum

My mom, Aleksandra Silverbaum – passion, fun and cheerful attitude. My mom passed away 2 days before my very first Underground Online Seminar in 2003. She had battled breast and ovarian cancer for 11 years but she didn’t let the cancer define who she was. She was always up for a party or a good time in between treatments. When my mom got remarried I made a deal with her. I told her I’d pay for her first-class trip to Vegas if she got married off by Elvis. True to form – she said YES without batting an eye. No doubt, I get a lot of my fun side from my Mom. And the other lasting effect she had on me was the unconditional encouragement for any idea or venture even though she didn’t understand half of them. Unfortunately my mom passed away when Missy was 5 months pregnant and never saw Zak, but his middle name, Aleksandr, is a tribute to her.

[Note: If you caught it my parents had different last names because as Russian immigrants my mom thought the translation was incorrect when we came over. Zilberbaum actually means “Silver Tree” and I legally shortened my family’s name to Silver for simplicity awhile back.]

Earl Nightingale – Helped me to be ok with the fact that I was ‘different’ than many of my friends. Not in an elitist way – but simply something inside of me that said I didn’t want to settle for an ordinary life. And his message of “Extraordinary people do the things ordinary people will not do.” really struck a chord. I really wish I had a chance to meet Earl in person but his message lives on through his recordings.

Yanik Silver and Dan KennedyDan Kennedy
– Dan has certainly been a huge influence in my life. He’s the first person that opened my eyes to the fact you could take information and sell it. Certainly, meeting Dan was one of those big, pivotal turning points in my life. Not only did Dan provide the inspiration, but also the nuts & bolts – a combination rarely found. It’s exciting to see how things come full circle because I’ve spoken at many Dan Kennedy events, I helped them get their affiliate program up & running for Glazer/Kennedy and even had Dan attend the Underground® the first year.

John Harricharan – my friend John is somebody who makes sure I nourish the spiritual side of my being. I remember meeting John in Boulder, CO, at Jonathan Mizel’s seminar back in 2001. I came rollerblading through the lobby and John was having breakfast with my buddy, Rob Olic. John immediately had the feeling that we were going to be friends and I’d have a tremendous impact on the world.  Might sound odd but I’ve come to discover John is a very gifted intuitive reader. Since then I’ve relied on John for his insights and advice. In fact, John’s “Power Pause” book holds a little 3-minute exercise that I still use to this day since discovering it back in ’01. It’s profoundly simple but yet incredibly powerful getting you on track to what you want and opening yourself up to getting it. Frankly – I’m not one of those spiritual ‘walk on hot coals’ type of guys – but his stuff really has had a profound effect on my life

Now in the last few years with Maverick Business Adventures® – it’s been exciting to be able to bring in all sorts of business icons and spend time with them. Here are just a few that shaped my thinking:

Dean Graziosi, Joe Polish and Yanik Silver came together to help raise over $450,000 for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite

Dean Graziosi, Joe Polish and Yanik Silver
came together to help raise over $450,000
for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite

Sir Richard Branson – Certainly my biggest business hero from the way he runs multiple companies to his own sense of adventure. It’s been incredible to spend significant time with Richard on his private island, Necker Island.

Every time I’m with Richard I marvel at how ‘in the moment’ he is. He seems very relaxed and always spends serious one-on-one time with the person he’s speaking to. I also love the way he says “YES” to projects and adventures. While on Necker the second time around, Tellman Knudson, asked him to marry off Jodie and him. The impromptu weeding was set-up with Richard being Tellman’s best man. Or I’ve seen Richard say yes to new business projects pitched his way over a rum punch.

What’s more, I’ve really picked up how Richard’s fingerprints are prominent on so many of his businesses. That culture of being “cheeky” is found throughout. In fact, I had the chance to read a branding manual for Virgin group and that’s exactly what they talk about in there.

Another point I saw in action was his social consciousness. Founding Virgin Unite and using the power of entrepreneurship and innovative thinking to solve societal problems has been inspiring. In fact, the last time we were on Necker I wrote down this quote he said that stuck with me, “If you are going to make a difference you have to work hard at making a difference.”

His latest book, “Business Stripped Bare”, is really worth picking up because it has some real business insights and isn’t quite so fluffy like his other ones.

<i>John Paul DeJoria and Yanik with pink hair to support breast cancer</i>

John Paul DeJoria and Yanik in 80’s gear and pink hair to support breast cancer

John Paul DeJoria – J.P., who holds the rank of #261 on Forbes list of World’s Richest with an estimated $2.5B net worth, came on our “Totally Rad Maverick 80’s Road Rally” and told his story from homeless to billionaire.

One of the things I wrote down that really stood out for me was when he talked about how having no money makes you creative. I firmly believe that.  J.P. talked about how he had a pending deadline to pay his printer for the shampoo bottles they just screened – so he went knocking on doors. And guess what? Even after J.P. was a billionaire and started the Patron tequila company with a friend, he still started small. He didn’t invest millions into the project – they bought 1,000 cases to test it out.

I asked J.P. the question of, “What’s the difference between billionaire thinking and millionaire thinking?” His reply was 3 zeroes. At first, I thought that was a trite response but after reflecting on it – probably not. It’s just like for me today getting to a million is no big deal…I think if you give it a big deal (the billion or million) then it holds dominion over you. But if you reduce it down to just a few more zeros – it’s not that big a deal.

What I really loved about J.P. was this incredible energy about him. It’s almost hard to explain, but the guy truly seemed to so content and happy. Of course, you might think that’s easy as a billionaire – but I don’t think that’s the reason.

tony hsieh

Tony Hsieh, keynoting Underground® 5

Tony Hsieh, CEO of – Having Tony keynote our Underground® seminar for the past two years and spending time with him socially – he’s impressed me. (btw – don’t play the 5 questions game with Tony over vodka shots!) I used to believe values were complete B.S. for companies until I spent time listening to Tony. One thing he kept stressing to our audience and in private conversations was to create the core values! Over and over and over again. To Tony, it’s never too soon or too early in a company’s creation to do it. That’s part of how our Maverick DNA was born.

yanik frank

Frank McKinney – Frank is hailed as “the Daredevil Developer and Real Estate Rock Czar”. He’s the somewhat crazy guy who builds 8…even 9-figure oceanfront homes on spec (meaning – no buyer before he starts). I’ve been inspired by Frank’s take on life and his philanthropic attitude. (Definitely grab his book “Make it Big”!)

Frank is definitely not someone that blends into the background with his wild rock star clothing, theatrical house openings and long blonde hair. We were walking back from an event together and I asked him a question about personality and “flair” as he calls it in his book. He said he’s naturally shy but will turn up his authentic personality just a bit to stand out. I found that reassuring. It’s not about becoming someone you’re not, but being a little bit bigger version of yourself to create bigger things.

Moreover, Frank is a real inspiration to me with the work he does with his Caring House Project Foundation, building homes for the desperately poor and homeless in Haiti. He likens himself to a modern day Robin Hood by selling to the ultra rich and then providing much of the profits to his work in Haiti.

yanik jesse

Jesse James – Jesse has been with us on 2 Maverick Baja adventures and I have really enjoyed getting to know this motorcycle mogul. From first blush you might write Jesse off with his multiple tattoos and hard-nosed attitude…but the guy is quite business savvy. You might have seen him recently on Celebrity Apprentice – and he really surprised a lot of people.

From Jesse I took away the aspect of saying ‘No’ to opportunities not authentic to your brand. With his popularity came lots and lots of requests to endorse products or license his name or image, and 90% of the time he would decline. Jesse was careful to not simply grow his personal brand for the sake of growing, but made it mean something. Though on the flip side of the coin when the right opportunities come up he’s been very astute to work licensing deals with the right partners. Many people thought it was a mistake to work with Wal-Mart to sell the West Coast Choppers line of t-shirts but from his modest background it was the right move.

Cameron Herold – Cameron has come into my life recently but has already had a really big impact. Cameron helped grow 1-800-Got Junk from a couple million to $100M before leaving as COO. He’s been the impetus for the Painted Picture I created for the Maverick group of companies. And he’s really been someone that has really held me accountable to make sure I’m creating what I say I want to. I big believer in the fact there are no accidents and the way I met Cameron was a funny story because we both appeared in a Canadian newspaper article about entrepreneurship on the same day. And also during that same week 2 people independently mentioned my name to him.

There are probably at least several dozen more people I could mention here. My business buddies are some of the smartest and most giving people around, and I always take something away from simply watching their marketing or during late-night talks in hotel suites. Or the Maverick Business Adventures members who have impressed me with their business savvy, zest for life and giving spirit on each and every trip!

Okay that’s a wrap for Part 3 – please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Also, since this is quite long I’ll bundle everything up into a neat little PDF with a bow when I’m finished. (Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed or provide your email address in the upper right-hand corner to be notified when each new section is up on the blog.)

Look for Part 4 where we’ll move into the “Have More Fun” aspect in life and business. I’m a big believer in having a lot of fun in how you work and how you play. First, I’ll show you some of the ways of creating incredible bonds with your customers and increasing your revenue at the same time.

Then, I’m going to do my best to coax out the inner kid you in to come forward.


** Update**

You can now download this series of blog posts (and the other posts they refer to) here.


  1. Jen
    December 31, 2009, 7:11 am

    Very inspiring Yannick. Keep going and prospering!

  2. December 31, 2009, 8:59 am

    MasterMinding is very important, and something I don’t do enough of. [note to self, mastermind!]

    My father passed away when I was very young. My Grandfather, the son of immigrants, was a HUGE influence in my life. He never attended high-school yet he built a very successful business. He did what he loved….

    You must be genuine and be yourself. Don’t chase the zeros or you will be like the jackass chasing the carrot. Do what you are truly passionate about doing.

    Don’t be afraid to approach successful people. They are human just like the rest of us. You know, they put their pants on one leg at a time. 😉 Don’t stalk them, but do be confident in yourself, and introduce yourself when you can.

    Life is a journey, not a destination. Take charge o’ yer universe ‘n paint yer dream reality me bucko.


  3. Paul Sabaj
    December 31, 2009, 12:35 pm

    It looks like you had a great time along the way. God Bless you and yours for the New Years

  4. December 31, 2009, 1:12 pm

    Thank you Yanik for your 3 posts on “A Decade of Lessons & Growth”. Excellent stuff. Here’s an idea you might consider for future posts — What were the biggest mistakes you made this past decade and what did you learn from them? We usually only hear about what works for people. However, it’s often more useful to learn what didn’t work and why – what lessons did you gain from these “mistakes” and how did working through these mistakes/challenges help you grow as a person/business?

    Wishing you success, health, and happiness!

    Your truly,

    P.S. — Awesome that you got to meet Sir Richard Branson. His books “Business Stripped Bare” and “Screw It, Lets Do It” are inspiring and I highly recommended them.

  5. December 31, 2009, 2:15 pm

    That wonderful book Think and grow Rich by Napolean Hill also has a whole section on masterminding. You have an impressiv list of friends.

    Richard Branson is a real fun guy to work with. He chose my associates in South Africa to do his virgin money laaunch. He really is an adventuring soul.

    Thanks for your long post – I’m sure they must take you hours to write.

  6. December 31, 2009, 4:38 pm

    Thank you for this inspiring synopsis of your decade. I enjoyed reading the three posts and took away a lot. What stood out for me is the power of the mastermind. I find that masterminds are much like people – some are formed for a reason & when that is done, so is the group, some are formed and stay for a season and then a few, very few, are for a lifetime. Each has a role in our life and we in that group.

    Wishing you continued success in all that you do ………………..


  7. December 31, 2009, 4:53 pm

    Hi Yanik,
    thank you for this.
    My operating assumption is, yes, who i know is key — and — its who knows me, who respects me, who values what i have to offer, who is willing to take a risk with me and how much i act in integrity.
    Looking forward to a great 2010 – MMX.
    dr jim sellner, PhD.,DipC.

    P.S. I agree, masterminding Groups or “Brains’ Trusts” as i call them are great personal & business incubators I have at times, facilitated 9 a month and have seen the tremendous growth of courageous people who choose to take the assignment.

  8. December 31, 2009, 7:30 pm

    I will call for your office for “local young entrepreneurship mentoring opportunity” with some Maverick Mastermind members! They will be available!

  9. January 1, 2010, 7:40 am


    What a great post! It is truly a blueprint for success and I appreciate you taking the time to put it in print for us.

    The mastermind part of the article is extremely strong!

    Here’s to a great 2010!

    Keep up the great work!

    John Clark

  10. January 1, 2010, 8:29 am

    Very nice to get to know a bit more about your Mon and Dad Yanik – I like the FUN element you inherited from your mom 😉

    God Bless and Happy 2010

  11. January 1, 2010, 9:58 am

    @Jim – you are absolutely right. That’s the other part of the equation too. An interesting book I just read on this covers this is ‘Trust Agents’

  12. January 1, 2010, 2:22 pm

    Your words are showing me to stay with what I love,and create massive
    value for others in my music and golf biz.

  13. January 9, 2010, 4:54 pm

    Yanik- Great article.. Happy New Year…

    How did you break out of making hundreds of thosands of dollars to millions? (Mindset, Massive Action, Systems, Products/Services)

    Best, Brian-

  14. April 6, 2010, 12:53 pm

    Awesome tips Yanik. Love your pictures. It is nice to know you do take time to give a helping hand to charity. Nice work

  15. April 20, 2010, 9:24 pm

    […] a previous post I mentioned one of my favorite success secrets has been creating authentic connections. And one of […]

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