#92 How to Connect with People and Leverage Mentoring to Learn Faster with James Swanwick
Another thing to say about today's show is that it's extremely practical with some very good, simple takeaways. So enjoy that.
Today's guest is the first Australian we've ever had on the show - James Swanwick. He's a former TV anchor for ESPN's Sports Center. He got that job through networking, and didn't have any TV experience. He's also interviewed many celebrities, from Robert Downey Jr. to Jennifer Aniston, Jon Bon Jovi, Angelina Jolie, and so on. Through that, he gathered a lot of experience; having to relate, socialize, and work with high status people like this.
Today, he teaches these kinds of things - people skills, social skills - and spreads the word about the value of these types of skills in everything in our lives.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- James' background (03:18)
- James' current social and dating relationships, and a perspective on marriage (04:46)
- How socializing, networking, and building a social lifestyle in LA has impacted James' dating lifestyle (13:26)
- How James began interviewing celebrities and high status people (16:05)
- Fundamental people skills and how James has nurtured his high status relationships: the difference between taking an interest in a person and taking a genuine interest in a person (18:05)
- The Myers Briggs test: are you an introvert or extrovert? Learning to become an extrovert (20:41)
- What James has learned from relating with celebrities (22:55)
- The big takeaways of developing social / people skills (28:28)
- James’ 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge: sharing his story of how to connect to people (34:00)
- Developing intimacy with others by taking risks: ask better questions (35:30)
- The importance of a good relationship between a mentor and mentee: offering and adding value (40:10)
- Tips for selecting a mentor: seeking wisdom (48:06)
- Best way to connect with James and learn more about his work (49:55)
- Recommendations for high quality advice in the social and people skills area (50:45)
- Top three recommendations to improve this aspect of your life as soon as possible (51:40)
Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
- People Skills Reboot: Mentioned by James while discussing introverts and extroverts (and learning to become an extrovert), this program was created by James to show people how to improve their social life (instantly liked, popular, working a room), creating intimacy, and the life benefits.
- The James Swanwick Show: James noted his iTunes podcast show while discussing social / people skills development.
- 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge: James created this program to show people how to bring more health, wealth, love, and happiness into their life.
- JamesSwanwick.com: The best way to connect with James is through his website, and personal notes on books he has read.
- Small Business Revolution: Recommended by James for improving communication skills. John Corcoran, former White House / Clinton Administration aide and speechwriter, offers ways to build relationships with VIPs and influencers.
- Winning with People: Discover the People Principles that Work for You Every Time: Recommended by James for learning and improving your communication skills.
- Myers & Briggs: James noted the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator while discussing introverts and extroverts, and learning to become an extrovert.
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan]: James, thanks so much for joining the show.
[James Swanwick]: Angel, great to be here. Thank you.
[Angel Donovan]: Alright, let's get a bit of background on you. How did you get to L.A.? How old are you and what are you up to there?
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, what's my story? Well, you can tell I'm an Australian. I grew up in Brisbane in Australia, became a newspaper journalist right out of high school. Then after doing that for six years, I went over to London in about 1999 because, I wanted to follow the Ruby World Cup and the Cricket World Cup that year and got myself a job at Sky Sports covering those two events.
Then, I fell in love with an English girl and she broke my heart, bit of a disaster. So, I've got to get out of this damned country. I didn't want to go back to Australia. So, I got on a plane and went to Los Angeles, lived in a hostel for about 90 days.
Then, I figured out a way to live in America and interviewing movie stars like Brad Bit and Angelina Jolie and George Clooney, Jon Bon Jovi. With those interviews, I would then sell those interviews to magazines all over the world and TV shows and then, started a PR company in about 2008 in Los Angeles but then, lost it in the financial crisis.
I went down to South America for a little bit, learned Spanish and lived in Buenos Aires and Medellin, Columbia. I came back, hosted a TV show, Sports Center on ESPN. I quit drinking. I haven't drunk now for five and half years.
I created a product called 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge and now, I do my best to inspire people in health and productivity and business and I guess, you could say, I'm living the dream here in Los Angeles, California.
[Angel Donovan]: Great to hear it. So, give us a little bit of perspective on your social and relationships like, are you in a relationship right now? What's your dating life like?
[James Swanwick]: Yeah no, I'm single right now. I've been in two pretty long relationships in the last couple years which were terrific. I was a player in my 20s, definitely and probably into my early 30s. The Australian accent does pretty well out here in California, does alright down in South American where I was living as well.
But then, as I matured, got into my 30s, around 33, 34, 35, I became very much focused on relationships and since then, I attract a much high quality of woman into my life and I very much focus on the quality of the relationship rather than when I was in my 20s and early 30s, it was all about the numbers. You know, it was quantity. There was absolute quality there as well but now, I'm just biding my time a little bit more.
Los Angeles is filled with incredibly beautiful women, impossibly beautiful women. So, I'm very much spoiled in that regard however, not all of them are the type of marriage material that I would certainly be looking for. So, sometimes it's easy to be overwhelmed by someone's beauty and go, "Oh, I'm going to marry that woman" and that's terrific but, you dig beneath the surface and there's a few reasons there why that maybe it's not a good fit.
But for the most part, living in Los Angeles is terrific. It's sunny, the people are very positive, people are very health-conscious and that's the type of life-partner I'm looking for. They're the kind of people that I attract into my life.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I find the same. I find people very positive there. That's definitely one of the strong points of people on there. So, you mentioned marriage just there. Is that something that you figure you'll be doing at some point or other? Is that kind of in the plans?
[James Swanwick]: It's a great question. In fact, the last relationship that I ended because, I had expressed that I was opened to the idea of not getting married, as I am open to the idea of getting married. It was a contentious issue with this. The woman that I was dating is a Coptic Christian. She's Egyptian-American and her faith is very important to her and for her, her path is set in stone. She will get married.
[Angel Donovan]: What is Coptic Christian? Is that a specific...?
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, it's an Egyptian branch of Christianity.
[Angel Donovan]: Is it more extreme because, some are more extreme than others in terms of the rules and getting married?
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, probably yeah. It's not extreme. The word extreme makes it sound like they're fanatical or something but, it's just more disciplined , I guess in that. But, the issue really was is that I have read enough books on evolutionary psychology, I've been in enough relationships, I've seen enough people who've been married, success stories and failures to form my own opinion and that is, I don't feel like I need to get married. I absolutely will have children but, I'm not 100% convinced that I will get married and nor, do I feel the need to get married and it doesn't work for every woman.
It doesn't work for many women but, it sure as hell works for a lot of women. I got a female friend out here who's 39 and she hasn't had a boyfriend in three or four years and she's now getting the IVF. She's actually getting a...how do you say it...a donor, a mystery donor. She sees a photo in a scrapbook and says, "Yeah, that guy. I like that guy" and then she gets inseminated.
[Angel Donovan]: Is that all they get, a photo in a scrapbook? You'd hope they'd get a lot more these days.
[James Swanwick]: I think they get to hear the voice as well. They get to like...they record the man's voice who donates.
[Angel Donovan]: Like a video?
[James Swanwick]: I don't think it's a video. No, I think it's just the voice and a photo.
[Angel Donovan]: Wow.
[James Swanwick]: And, they get to know a little bit about the person's background but, not enough that you can easily identify that man.
[Angel Donovan]: I'd want to know the genetics. If I was a woman and I was going to have someone's babies, I'd be like, "I want the best genetics here." You know, I want to be able to screen that. Maybe that's coming in the future or maybe that's not going to be allowed? I don't know.
[James Swanwick]: I guess, they're making their decision based on how tall is he, what does his voice sound like, what's his educational background but, there's nothing there about his name or which city he lived in or any of those kind of things that you could easily track that person down but, the point I guess I was trying to make was, this whole tradition of marriage, I think it's...we're headed to an apocalypse with it, I think.
I think that we're going to see more and more people not getting married, people who do get married later and later in life and I think we're going to see a complete transformation of that traditional marriage institution. I think we're going to see a lot more families, couples who are not going through that formal process but are choosing to have monogamous relationship and raise children together.
I would be perfectly happy if I, on my deathbed at say 85 or 90, looked back and said, "I had three amazing relationships with incredible women and you know, maybe had children with one of them or two of them." Some people would go, "Oh my God! That's outrageous!" What are you talking about? You need the traditional family." But, I don't know, I don't subscribe to these very strict, rigid cultural traditions.
I figure out what works for me and I suspect that I will very happily have children and raise children with a partner who I love but, I probably will not get married. Although, I'm still open to that.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, you sound very similar to me. I've been thinking off and on it for many years. It's something that we've had on the show which might be interesting to you is like, we've had a couple of researchers talking about what the research says about it and there is evidence that says you're going to have a better quality relationship, you're going to be healthier if you actually get married versus just live together.
But, I'm wondering also if that's influenced by the types of people who decide to get married and who decide not, right? So, if I were someone who was, I would typically get married but, I decided not to for the reasons we're talking about that are changing right now and it's just becoming more common. Then, I might act in exactly the same way as a married person or maybe, there's something just about being married actually changes you.
Some people think that social pressure around people, once you're married, people think of you as different because you have this little notice on you saying you're married and they kind of reinforce your marriage. Whereas, if you are just together and you're living together or something, maybe you don't have that reinforcing social pressure. So, it's an interesting topic.
[James Swanwick]: Well I'll tell you, you really have to come back to what is it that you want out of life? I've read book recently called Lessons of History by Will Durant, one of the great historical writers of all time and he wrote that one of the laws of nature is that life must replicate. In other words, it's inherently in our genes that we want our genes to continue. In other words, we want to have children. It's just deep in our psychology.
So, if you decide you want to have children and you want your genes to carry on and you to produce offspring, then the next question is, "Well, how do you do that?" Well, do you have to get married to be able to adequately raise a child to ensure that your offspring continues on and your bloodline continues? I would argue no, you do not. Does that provide you with more happiness? Maybe but also, maybe not.
So, I know it's an ambiguous answer but really, inherently when it comes down to it, one of the laws of nature is life must replicate and everything is set up for us to have sex, to produce a child and for that child to live and then, to have sex and produce another child and carry on. That's one of the indisputable laws of nature and so, as long as you get that right, I don't think it really matters whether you get married or not.
Now, it also doesn't mean that you go around fathering children all over the world otherwise, we would have anarchy, right? We'd be having 40, 50 children. Although, having said that, one in ten men in the world are a direct descendent of Genghis Khan, the great Chinese...the great Mongolian, I'm sorry, ruler.
If you could interview him today, he might say, "Well absolutely, you should go and father a million people because, look what I created. You know what I mean? Like, I created this great dynasty and I created this great universe and look at my off spring all over the place." But I don't know, I know it seems like a bit of a cop op answer to say, "Whatever works for you" but listen, whatever works for you.
Everyone's just trying to do the best they can but, I certainly do not adhere to the idea that I have to get married although, my mother will probably tell you a different story. She's in Brisbane, Australia going, "James, come back to Australia, meet a nice Australian girl, get married and have children." I'm like, "Ahhh, I don't think that's going to happen, Jill."
[Angel Donovan]: Right, that's exactly the same sort of conversation I have with my mom as well, Right, I think that's a great approach to it, trying to think about what's going to really suit you in your lifestyle and going it that way. Takes a little bit of soul-searching to figure it out.
Want to switch gears a little bit to move on to one of your stronger points and definitely where you've got a lot more experience than most people is socializing, networking and building a social lifestyle in LA which is, you just kind of gave us some of the highlights with the celebrities and everything. So first of all, I would just like to know is that anyway contributed or related to your dating lifestyle? Have you seen that impact your dating lifestyle?
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, I have positives and negative, pros and cons. So, the positives are, I live in Los Angeles. I work kind of in the entertainment industry. I get to go to fashion shows, the Oscars, the Golden Globes. I've been to the Playboy Mansion. I've dated a Playboy model. I've dated models. It's amazing, right? If you're a single guy, it's like, "This is Disney Land."
It's terrific and that's a pro because, it's fun and you're spoiled for choice and everywhere you look, it's like a beautiful woman and every social occasion, there's a beautiful woman. Even if I was just going to go over to a friend's place and just hang out and there's was nothing to do with entertainment, if there were girls there, chances are they're going to be really fun, positive, energetic, attractive-looking women and so that's terrific. It's like you're always spoiled for choice.
The con is that you're spoiled for choice and because you're spoiled for choice, you get into what's called "decision fatigue" where...how this has affected me is that I'm always thinking "the grass is always greener." It's like, "I can walk away from this relationship because, I know that there are going to be five other girls or women potentially, equally as good if not better than the one that I'm letting go."
So when you live in Disney Land, there's always a shiny new thing and so, it...just to say you've been in a relationship for a year with a wonderful person, if you value yourself and you have a high regard for yourself and you have good self-esteem, it's a lot easier for you to walk away from that relationship knowing that you are someone of...who is attractive enough to be able to attract the opposite sex.
So pros, spoiled for choice. There are always great amazing women from different cultures all over the place. You're always being introduced to them. Cons, you can get caught up in a perpetual cycle of decision fatigue where it's like, "Should I marry this one? Should I have kids with this one or should I not?" but there's, "Maybe I should do this?"
At some point, I'm going to have to just choose and just decide and just cut off the options and just be absolutely thrilled with who I'm partnered with and how she makes me feel and how I make her feel. Otherwise, the danger is you get into this vicious cycle of always comparing, the grass is always greener and never being satisfied.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. So, you've worked with a number of high status celebrities. How did you get in contact with them? How did you set up interviews with those? Was it difficult? Was there some kind of social networking involved or what kind of procedures do you put in place to make that happen?
[James Swanwick]: Well initially, 10 years ago when I first arrived in this country, I was actually a journalist for magazines around the world. So, it was quite easy. I was writing for Loaded Magazine in the UK for example which is one of the original lad's mags or I was writing for the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.
And so, because they have huge readership or at least they did at the time, it was easy to go to the PR agents of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and say, "Hey, let James interview you and we'll promote your latest movie in these magazines and newspapers around the world", which serves their interest because, they get to promote their commercial movie which puts more bums in seats and everyone's happy.
I haven't done that profession for about six or seven years but, because I moved in those circles and I was able to meet the personal publicist of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and Jon Bon Jovi and Tom Cruise and John Travolta and all these people, all of sudden you become known. You get a reputation of being someone who's trust-worthy.
Then later on, it becomes a lot easier to reach out to those connections, to those people that you formed a relationship with over a number of months or a number of years and make a request to interview them even if maybe the star's interest is not served as much if I was coming with all these huge, big readership from the magazines.
So, that's where relationships are certainly key. When you move in those circles and you get a reputation for being honest and straightforward and reliable and you don't screw anyone over and you're polite and you're friendly and you're helpful and you're generous and you're consideration, Man, you can do anything in life. It's really amazing. If you just have good basic people skills, the universe just delivers you whatever it is that you want.
[Angel Donovan]: So for you, what would be the fundamental people skills and how did you nurture those relationships over that time?
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, take a genuine interest in the other person. Now, I want to go over this. I know it sounds very simple but, there's a difference between taking an interest in the other person and taking a genuine interest in the other person.
Taking an interest in someone is because you're going to get something out of it, the other person can sniff that out. They can smell that. It's like fake praise. "Oh yeah, how you're doing? Oh yeah, tell me about yourself," but really in your head you're like, "How can this person help me? How can this person help me? How can this person help me?"
[Angel Donovan]: Which is the standard, if you think about it like, a lot of people.
[James Swanwick]: It's the standard but, if you just switch it, "I'm going to take a genuine interest in this person and I'm going to ask questions because, I really want to know about this person and I genuinely want to find interest in this person because, it makes me feel good to be interested in other people. It gives me pleasure to hear someone else's story. It gives me pleasure to be able to inspire someone to feel good about telling their story, about sharing their story," then the dynamic of that relationship completely changes.
You can go from one of just being some forgettable person that someone met at a cocktail party to you walking away and the other person going, "I want connect with that person again,” or "I want to do business with that person," or "I want to go on a date with that person," or "I want to introduce that person to someone in my network." So the rule number one, everything that I've ever done is take a genuine interest in other people.
Now, some people say to themselves, "I don't like other people." Some people would describe themselves as an introvert and they feel awkward around people. I'm definitely an extrovert. I've done the Myers-Briggs tests where you can actually see what personality tests you are and I'm an extrovert. So, meeting people comes a little bit easier for me but, let me tell you, if you're an introvert, you can learn little technique, just little techniques that you can just...
"Okay, here's a stranger. I don't know this person. What do I need to say? I know what I'm going to say." Instead of saying, "What's your name? What do you do?" you switch it to, "What's your story? What are you passionate about right now? What are you interested in? Tell me about yourself."
Those kinds of questions which encourage the other person to open up and share their story is what creates connection and when you create connection, you create intimacy on a platonic and a romantic level. When you create that intimacy and that connection, that's when greatness happens. That's when people want to help you.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah a couple of points on there, you mentioned the Meyers-Briggs and it's actually an interesting thing amongst basically a lot of the dating guys I relate to. We all did that test many many years ago, like 10, 15 whenever it was and a lot of us came back as the introvert type.
But just recently, it was only about two months ago I think, everyone was like...one guy was like, "Hey, I used to be an introvert and now, I'm an extrovert on this test." Everyone did and it was pretty much the same deal, like they had all been introverts and that was why they got into studying like how to be better social skills and all this stuff and now, they're extroverts.
So, it's one of those things where I don't think it's like genetic. I think some people do start off one way or the other but, if you want to, if you want to change, it's up to you. It's kind of like your brain gets reprogramed. You keep going out, you keep being social, eventually, your brain is going to be like, "I kind of like this. I'm used to this. This is becoming the new norm for me." It's about getting that experience in.
[James Swanwick]: It's a learnable skill. It's a learnable skill. I interviewed a whole bunch of people on this and I put it together into a program I called "People Skills Reboot" and it's amazing. I had one guy, he lives out in Fort Lauderdale in Florida and he came up to me at a seminar I was in in January and he's like, "Hi James, I'm really shy and introverted and there are so many people here. I've listened to your podcast but, I'm still really shy. What do I do?"
I said, "Well, first of all, you came up to me and you introduced yourself. So, you're actually not that shy. So great work, congratulations. Second of all, you can learn these skills. You can learn what to say in the first two seconds of meeting someone. You can learn how you should position your body language. You can learn how to have an argument with someone effectively that defuses the situation. It is a learnable skill."
He went through my People Skills Reboot program and by the way, you don't need to do that. You can just read the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" or "Winning with People" by John C. Maxwell. Do any program, read any book on this, whatever it is as long as it's reputable, you can learn this skill and you can train your mind to get out of one of "I'm no good. I can't meet people I don't know" to like, "I'm all of a sudden a people-magnet and people want to connect with me."
[Angel Donovan]: Yep great, great, great stuff. So, I was wondering what you learned from...I was kind of bringing up a situation recently, just to give you a bit of context because, it was in the news or whatever. It was Robert Downey Jr. had this awful interview where this guy kind of acted a bit socially inappropriately. Well, that's what Robert Downey Jr.'s take on it.
I was wondering if you've learned anything different from relating to celebrities like, you felt like you got any social or people skills? Have you learned anything from those experiences that are different and what you'd think of...I don't know if you followed the Robert Downey Jr. thing. If you followed that and you felt like that was a...he was treading over social appropriateness lines and stuff, the interviewer?
[James Swanwick]: Well first of all, I mean, I've interviewed just about every celebrity on the planet and I did get in trouble a few times from 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers for asking what they described as "inappropriate questions". For example, Jason Stathom, the British action star, I was interviewing him for one of the Transformer movies and I asked him about his ex-girlfriend Kelly Brook who is the British actress and model.
She was pretty. She used to host The Big Breakfast in the UK back in the day and he didn't like me asking anything to do with Kelly Brook and at the end of the interview, he complained to 20th Century Fox and then, they called me up and said, "Hey, you're not allowed to ask personal questions."
In my mind, I'm like, "Are you kidding me? All I'm going to do is ask personal questions because, if it's not personal, what is it? All I'm doing is just promoting his damned movie. Like, I want to know about his life."
There was another time...but then, fast forward a year later, I was interviewing Paris Hilton for the movie House of Wax and at that time, she was dating some called Paris. So, you got this Paris Hilton and she's dating a man called Paris Something-or-Other, some shipping magnet grandson. I said to her, "What's...is it ever weird when you might be having sex with your boyfriend and both of you yell out 'Paris, Paris' at the same time?"
And she laughed hysterically. She thought it was the funniest thing that she had ever heard and she couldn't stop laughing. For a minute, she's like laughing and at the end of it, she was like, "That was such a great question and such a great interview."
So, with some people you just never know. Just to get back to your original question, what I found is that the best way to ask a question, the best way to get the best kind of answers is to ask someone how they were feeling about something. So rather than saying to Robert Downey Jr., "Tell us, why did you get arrested for drugs and having a gun and all that kind of stuff," a better way of asking the questions, to put a positive spin on it might be, "You know, it's been some years now, it's been 15 years now since your hell-raising days, what did you learn? What have you learned over the last 10 or 15 years about yourself through that process of redemption? How did you feel going through, coming out of that seemingly dark period and into this period where you've got this hit movie and everything's great and you're married."
And so, that's asking the person that you're interviewing to connect to a feeling. There's also a lesson in there. You're saying, you're asking them to teach the lesson like, of redemption, if you like. It's not so much, "What about all those bad days?" it's, "Well, those bad days, what did you learn? What's the lesson in there that can really inspire other people?" So, sometimes you just need to reframe the question a little bit to put a positive spin on it and many times, you can get great answers and really make a connection with people.
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely yeah, that's a great point. I don't know if you saw the interview but, the interviewer looked extremely uncomfortable and hesitant when he was asking, he was kind of building up to answer the questions and I felt like that plus the fact that he was negative, as you were saying. Like, he was putting it in a negative light instead of trying to bring value as you said earlier to the person and then, I thought he was setting himself up to get slammed by Jr.
[James Swanwick]: I'll give you another example that the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather boxing fight recently. At the end of that fight, there was a reporter from HBO, an American guy and he was interviewing Manny Pacquiao who'd just lost and Manny Pacquiao said that he thought that he'd won the fight. The reporter, the journalist was like incredulous at the suggestion. He was like, "You thought you won?! Wow."
Then, the tonality of his voice was one of like, "Are you crazy Manny? Like, there's no way you won." Then, he continued to press Manny Pacquiao with this line of questioning which was, "You just didn't seem like you showed up" or like, "Did he hit you hard in the first two rounds? Is that why you stepped back in the last few rounds."
It was almost like on of...it was very aggressive questioning of Manny Pacquiao. Now, that reporter, he could have still had his opinion that there was no that Manny Pacquiao could have thought that he'd won but, he could have asked the questions without the tonality and asked it in a much nicer softer way which would have made for a much better interview.
Instead of saying, "What you thought you won?", he could have said, "So, what made you think that you had won the fight?" You know and said it very deadpan instead of like, "What, you thought you'd won?!" Or even changing the tonality, even if he said the same sentence. He could have been like, "Oh, you thought you'd won? So, what made you think that? What made you feel that?"
You see how that there's so much difference there. In fact a lot of language experts say that a lot of time, how we inspire people or persuade people is 90%...it's only 10% of what you say and it's 90% of how you say it which is why tonality and context plays such an important part.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah absolutely, that's a great example on tonality also. Are there any big take-aways you took from relating...I don't know many years, a couple of years? Was it a couple of years, three years you were basically going in celebrity circles, meeting a lot of them? Did you take any...do you think you developed any particular social or people skills or learned any lessons from that?
[James Swanwick]: I mean, it really just made me become a great questioner, ask great questions of people. What's a crap question? Let me just put this in context, okay?
My job when I was sitting down with these celebrities, I had 20 minutes on most occasions to interview them and the magazines I was writing for all wanted me to extract personal comments about them. For example when I interviewed Angelina Jolie for the movie The Changeling in 2005, they wanted me to ask her about Brad Pitt and her kids and her children. Actually, it wasn't about Brad Pitt at the time, I think that relationship became later but, they wanted me to ask her about her kids.
The publicist had said, "No personal questions." This was before she walked in the room and I'm like, "Are you kidding me? Of course I'm going to ask them personal questions." So, what I had to do was find a way to craft a question that got Angelina Jolie wanting to tell me about her kids.
So instead of...when she walked in, she walked into...we were in the penthouse suite of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. She walked in, she introduced herself and I said, "Hi." Angelina said, "Hi James, nice to meet you, sit down." What I could have done wrong was say, "Tell me about your kids. Why do you keep adopting children? What's the purpose of that?" And I would have gotten...the response would have been like, "This is an outrageous interview" and she probably would have got up and walked out.
Instead what I said was, "So, in this movie Changeling, you play a mother whose son goes missing. Just a really traumatic event for a woman. You, yourself are a mother. How do you think, you would feel and how do you think you would act if something like that happened to you?" Then, I just shut up.
Now, that's a great question because, it requires more than a yes or no answer, it requires her to think, it requires her to talk about her feelings, it requires her to dig deep within herself to imagine a scenario and how she would play that out. Angelina Jolie, her response to my question was to give me about three or four minutes of quotes about her children and at that time, she hadn't spoken about her child Maddox or her adopted children at great length, only a little bit.
And she went on and on and one...she was like, "Oh, if Maddox was kidnapped it would be awful, it would be terrible. That's why I have security teams around me and when I went to Africa last year and I was there and I was meeting all these children, it was such a beautiful experience and if any of my children would ever be taken, then, I would just absolutely move heaven and earth to try and find them and I would do this. Sometimes fans come up to us in the street and I worry about it and I have to get more security detail. I don't want my security detail there. I want to live my own life but, I have to."
These great quotes and it all came because, I asked the right question. I asked a good question. I asked a question that was open-ended that asked her to describe a feeling and it was sympathetic and empathetic and it was friendly.
[Angel Donovan]: And it related to what she wanted as well which was the promotion of the film.
[James Swanwick]: And it related exactly to what she wanted which was to promote her film. So whenever you're connecting to anyone, to any human being, find out what interests them. What are they passionate about? Then, move heaven and earth to try and get that person excited to talk about what they're interested in and try and find the part of it that you're interested in because, you don't want to just sit back and go...
Like, if you're meeting someone who's into chess and you couldn't give a rat's ass about chess and you find that boring, you don't want to sit there for 10 minutes while someone craps on about chess but, if you ask a question like, "Why do you love chess so much? Was there a moment where you were losing chess and all of a sudden you fought back to win? What was going on in your mind? What was going on in your head when you were down and out and seemingly, you were going to lose? What did that trigger in your mind to be able to come out of that?"
Now, you can fascinated by the answer because, every human being has been down and out and tried to find a way to dig themselves out of a hole. Now, the conversation is not about chess. It's about getting up when you're down even though the guy who's talking to you is talking about chess. So, it's finding those commonalities. It's finding those themes where two people can connect.
[Angel Donovan]: And as you said, you can do it with anything because, you took an object, in this chess...because, everyone's thinking, "What if I'm not interested in the same thing with a potential girl or a guy I'm interested in connecting with but, we're so different in terms of our connecting." But, you just brought it all back by saying, "Alright, let's look at, how does that relate to the human experience," basically, whatever it is.
[James Swanwick]: How does it related to the human experience? Absolutely, yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: And everyone can relate to that.
[James Swanwick]: We're all humans, everyone can related to a story about being down and out and fighting back. Everyone can relate to heartbreak. My podcast (I've got a podcast in iTunes called the James Swanwick Show) anyone who has been listening to my show regularly will know that I talk about how a Columbian woman broke my heart in 2011 and it left me devastated for a year. I'm walking through the streets and just down and depressed.
Why do I share that story? I'm a grown man. Most men instinctively would not want to share that story but, I do and you know why I do? Because people connect to that story because, everyone's had their heart broken. Every man has felt pain over a woman. Every woman has felt over a man and so, when I share that story, people connect with me.
I have a challenge called the 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge. I quit alcohol five and a half years ago. I never drank heavily. I just drank enough that I had bit of a beer belly and I was a bit hung over. At my website, there's a video of me talking about my story of when I quit drinking. It's at www.30DayNoAlcoholChallenge.com.
I talk about how when I met Jennifer Aniston, the Hollywood actress who was in the TV show Friends, I was 30 pounds overweight. When I was posing for the photo, I was sucking my gut in because, I was so embarrassed standing next to one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood and I'm 30 pounds overweight with a big Marshmallow Man face and double chin. I share that story.
In fact, if you want to see the photo of my with Jennifer Aniston and see how my fat face, just got to www.30DayNoAlcoholChallenge.com and in the first ten seconds you can see the photo of me and Jennifer Aniston.
But, I share that story because, it connects to people because, everyone can feel what it's like to feel awkward or insignificant or inferior around someone else. I don't make out my life to be perfect and great amazing.
One other thing I'd say here, which is a great way to connect with people is talk about your failures. Be open about them. Be honest about them. Say, "I messed up. I was heartbroken. I made a mistake. I lost all my money. I blew out, I got 30 pounds overweight" because, everyone's made a mistake and when you admit your mistakes and you talk about your pain and your suffering and all that kind of stuff, people can connect to you because, everyone's gone through the same thing.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, great point. So I remember what I wanted to refer it back to earlier now. You were talking about being intimate, being more intimate and developing that with people. So, I was thinking about how basically you’re taking risks a lot of people don't want to take, right?
A lot of the guys listening probably listening to this are listening to what you're saying here and they're thinking, "Wow, that's kind of risky, putting myself out there." And I think what you're basically saying is you have to take those risks to be more intimate, to ask more personal questions than you think is maybe appropriate because, a lot of people think, "Well, I should ask these dry questions. What's your name? Where do you come from?"
These are some of the typical questions we tell guys not to use and normally, the typical advice is, "Don't ask people questions because, it annoys them" but actually, you're kind of reframing it and it's good to see it like that, is that don't ask dry boring questions.
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, ask better questions, become a master questioner and if you take nothing else away from this interview, just in your mind implant this question, "What's your story?" When you first meet someone say, "What's your story?" and "What's your story?" is 100 times better than, "What do you do?" Because when you ask, "What do you do?" the person will say, "Oh, I'm an accountant" or "I'm a lawyer" or "I do this" and you go, "Oh okay."
But, if you say, "What's your story?" Man, you can get so many different answers. It could be like, "Well, I'm Australian and I've moved here to Los Angeles a few years ago and now, I'm developing this thing and it's amazing." The conversation can just go in 20 different tangents. You don't know what the other person's going to say.
What's important to the other person is likely to come out of that person's mouth. It might be, "Oh, I just had a kid the other day. It's amazing," and then, you can go down the path of having a conversation about having children. It might be, "Oh, I love hiking. I'm a hiking enthusiast." You go down the path of like, "Well, tell me about your hiking. Have you hiked the Grand Canyon or where's a great place around here?" It can go in all different kinds of directions.
Second great question to ask once you’re in the conversation is "How did it feel when...? What was going through your mind when...? What lesson did you learn when..." So whenever someone tells you a story, ask them to talk about their feelings in that moment. "How did you feel in that moment? What were you thinking in that moment? What did you learn from that process?" They're great questions, great questions. Not only because you're going to get interesting answers but, because the person that is answering it is going to enjoy giving you the answers.
But when you ask questions that require just bland yes or no answers or factual answers like, "What do you do?" "I'm a lawyer." I mean right away, you're just playing catch up right from the very beginning. It's like both people think to themselves, "This conversation blows, Man. This conversation sucks. I got to have another one of these stupid conversations?"
I don't like it particularly much when someone in America say...it starts off with, "Oh, you're from Australia?" "Yes." "Where are you from?" "Brisbane." "Oh, I've always really wanted to go to Australia." "Okay." "How long you been here?" "Okay."
[Angel Donovan]: Right and you've heard that 150 times.
[James Swanwick]: Man, so many times and...
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah so, I mean the rule is like people have heard these really boring list of questions many, many times and you're going to stand out by just giving the questions because, I do think it relates a bit to these balls and it's a little bit out of social convention but, it's not a bad way out of social convention.
It's just that a lot of people are scared of being a little bit more intimate and a little bit more personal and asking their little bit more personal question because, I think these people are going to like, "Oh, I didn't want to talk about my personal self or something." I'm not really sure what the idea is there but, you stand out just by asking these questions which are asking for a bit more interesting information from a person.
[James Swanwick]: I mean, do you want to stand out?
[Angel Donovan]: Exactly yeah.
[James Swanwick]: Do you want to be another sheep because, you will be forgettable. If you want to be forgettable then, just carry on asking your lame questions and getting crap results or mediocre results or not being able to connect with the woman or not being able to make new friends, just keep asking those same questions.
I'll tell you this though, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. So, test questions. Go out there and test it. Ask a good question. Ask a question that gets the other person genuinely excited to tell you the answer and ask open-ended question that don't require a yes, no or a factual response. Be a master questioner and if you become a master questioner, you will become a master people person.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. Another area of your life that you talk about a lot is being a mentee. On your podcast and elsewhere, you talk about how Tai Lopez is your mentor and how that's helped you. Could you talk about some of the things...what do you find important about that relationship and kind of give us the outline of why you feel it's so important to be a mentee and how can you be a good mentee? What are the things that people don't do, the big mistakes they make when they want to get a mentor and they want to learn from someone?
[James Swanwick]: Right well look, there's nothing more powerful in terms of your education than getting a mentor or getting mentors and a mentor is someone who is 10, 20 years ahead of where you want to be in that area or, it might just be someone who's incredibly more skilled than you in a certain area. You don't need to but, if you can learn from someone who has gone through and made the mistakes and has paved the way and has experience and has wisdom and that person can pass on his or her knowledge to you which saves you the same kind of mistakes and the same years heartache and the same pain, you will save yourself years of wasted productivity. You will save yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars or pounds or euros, whatever currency you’re in. You will save yourself unnecessary stress. So, getting a mentor is so important.
Being a good mentee means not just taking from your mentor and saying, "You teach me everything because, I just deserve to be taught everything." It's helping your mentor. It's offering value to your mentor in an area of his or her life that maybe he's not well versed in or maybe it's just making their life a little easier or maybe it's just sending them a little internet clipping on a news story about something that your mentor is interested in.
I'll give you an example, I mentored someone, an American gentleman who's living over in Thailand and he heard me on my podcast about 14 or 15 months ago. He sent me an email and by the way, I get hundreds of emails a week and people wanting to have coffee with me, they'll take me to lunch and I either ignore most of them or I just politely decline because, I hate it when people reach out to me and day, "Can I take you to coffee and pick your brain."
Like, I'm busy. I want to help people but, when that person is reaching out to me that way, they're not offering any value. Okay? All they're doing is saying, "Can I please take up three hours of your time so you can help me?" That's not a good way to do it.
But, this person reached out to me, sent me an email and in the email, it said, "Hey James, I noticed this thing about your website at www.JamesSwanwick.com and I thought maybe if you changed it or amended it, that you'd probably get more people clicking on your sight or more people signing up to your email list. Just a suggestion. No need to reply."
I was like, "Damn, that guy just offered me value. He just brought to my attention something that I wasn't aware of." Truth be known, I didn't reply to him. I just went, "Oh, that's nice," and I didn't reply to him. Guess what? Two weeks later, the same guy emailed me again, this time he knew that I was a Denver Broncos fan and so, he sent me an email going, "Hey James, I see that Payton Manning's been injured. I know you're a Broncos fan. Here's an article I just found on www.ESPN.com which I thought you might find interesting. By the way, I really enjoyed your podcast with..." and then he signed off.
I'm like, "Who is this person? Like, he knows that I'm a Denver Broncos fan and he sent me an article that he knows that I would find interesting?" After that second email, I replied and said, "Hey Man, here's my schedule. Schedule me a time and let's jump on Skype for 15 minutes."
Then two weeks later, I got on a Skype with him. He was in Thailand and I was in Los Angeles and then, we got to talking and I ended up hiring him to work on my email list on my website and just to optimize it because, he had experience in email optimization on funnels. And so, he's been working for me now for about a year and I've paid him money and send him money and we have a great relationship and he's learned so much from me and he has helped me by offering value.
Too many times, people are like, "I'm going to get a mentor. That person's going to teach me everything. I'm going to give nothing back." But, what he did was he offered value to me. He showed that he knew enough about me and he got my attention.
[Angel Donovan]: So, I'm sure a lot of people are thinking, "It's really hard to figure out how I'm going to add value to someone who's...especially if they're 20 years ahead of me. You got any like practical tips on different ways...you just gave us some good illustrations of how...he basically did some research.
He got to know you really well whether it's listening to your podcast or he was actually doing some research and he really tried to find some things that he knew something about or he could relate to and maybe he just waited for the opportunity for something to come up and he's like, "Oh, I bet James would like that. I'll send it to him or I'll help him out with that."
Do you got any other suggestions or practical tips, maybe things that you've learned over time to help to add people...add value to people who are over 20 years ahead and sometimes we think, "They are so successful. I don't know what I could do for them."
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, offer to work for them for free. Offer to help them out without asking for any money in return. Connect them to people that you think that they would want to be connected to. Send them a book in the mail. Figure out what their work address is and send them a book with a handwritten that says, "I really enjoyed listening to you" or, "You've really inspired me. I thought you'd really appreciate this book."
Handwritten notes are huge, massive because, no one does it and when you get something like that it's like, "Who is this person? Track that person down. Let's have a conversation with them."
[Angel Donovan]: What I like about that today is getting less...it's even more scarce. Less and less people are writing handwriting so, it's only going to get more valuable over time.
[James Swanwick]: Yeah absolutely.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[James Swanwick]: One kid...I say kid, I shouldn't call him a kid but, he was in high school and he sent me a video, a 30 second video where he had written a rap song with lyrics including my name in it. It was kind of like...how did it go? It was like, "Pretty much no experience at all but, I'd work all day for you for just a minute on a call." He had shots of me and my website and he'd written the word James down in a calendar and filmed the word James in the calendar as if saying, "I would work all day for you for just a minute on a call."
He sent me this in www.Youtube.com clip, put music to it, different shots and I'm like listening this and going, "How can I ignore this person?" You know what I mean? Like, it flatters me, it appeals to my vanity. It's like this kid knows enough about me that he's written lyrics and written a song about me.
Same thing happened, I scheduled a call with him. I spoke to him and then, I invited him to come to LA to do three days’ work experience and he ended up staying in my home because, he had no money. He'd just graduated high school. He was going to go on...not Airbnb, what's the other one? Couchsurfer. I said, "You know what, just come and stay with me in my home. I've got a spare room here." This kid who had been listening to me for a year and following me for a year, all of a sudden gets to spend three days in my home and just seeing me work and learn and help me out and understand how a business work.
I mean people...this is not me saying, "Well, I'm so great" but, any kind of mentoring in whatever profession, people can get so much value out of just being around someone who's 20 years ahead of them, who's done what they want to do and that kid found a way to actually sleep under my roof, to actually get into my personal space.
So, just illustrating that you know enough about the other person, writing a handwritten note, coming up with a video, doing something that gets your attention other than, "Can you be my mentor. Can you teach me? Hey, can I buy you coffee? Can I meet up with you?" Anything different than that is going to get you noticed and get you on the path to greatness and learning from mentors.
[Angel Donovan]: It's kind of like a recurrent theme in our conversation today. It's like, "Get away from the generic, get away from the standard. Do something different. Stand out a lot more than anyone else."
In terms of selecting a mentor, have you got any tips about that? There's a lot of people out there doing different things whether it's dating, social, business, whatever, are there any things you think people should think about when they're thinking of, "This is probably the guy I should go after for my mentor or like get to know for my mentor"?
[James Swanwick]: Where do you want to be in 10, 20 years from now? What industry are you interested in? Find out the leaders are in that industry, not people who you know are maybe five years ahead of you, people who are 20 years ahead of you.
I always use this analogy like, "If you wanting to learn basketball, would you want to learn from Michael Jordan or would you want to learn from Ron Jeremy, the former porn star? If you're going to learn basketball, you want to learn from Michael Jordan right?" So, make sure you pick the right mentor.
That's a big thing because, all too often, people follow the wrong mentors. People I follow, Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world. Richard Branson, these are business people that I follow.
When it comes to my health, I read books by Michael Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma. Joel Salatin who is in his late 50s, early 60s who's one of the world's great agricultural farmers and talks about how you can eat healthy food. So, I follow everything that he does.
I don't follow people who are 24, 25 years old who are younger than me who even though they might be experienced in that field, don't have the benefit of years of wisdom. So, if you're going to pick a mentor, go to the very top, the very top. Someone who is 20 years ahead of you because, someone who's two years ahead of you or five years younger than you is not going to be able to give you the same amount of benefit as someone who has walked the walk consistently over time.
Then, it just comes down to, "How can get this person's attention and how can I give value to this person?" So, really think about that when you're out there looking for...
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely, thanks. Thanks James. Okay, let's round off with a few quick fire questions. What are the best ways for people to connect with you? Where do you hang out, you're Twitter, your website, that kind of stuff.
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, you can go to www.JamesSwanwick.com. If you go there, I'll give you my personal notes on three books that I read including Winning with People by John C. Maxwell. It will teach you a whole lot of people skills, tricks and tips and how you can start conservation.
If you want to take a 30-Day break from alcohol, just got to www.30DayNoAlcoholChallenge.com. I really walk through people there and help you take a break from alcohol so you can feel better, lose weight, get more clarity. Then, I'm on Instagram and Twitter at @JamesSwanwick. You can find me at any of those places.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, excellent.
[James Swanwick]: And also, sorry, I've got a podcast in iTunes, The James Swanwick Show. Just subscribe to me there and I interview a whole lot of people and talk about life and...
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. Is there anyone besides yourself for high quality advice in this area, the kind of areas we've been talking about today.
[James Swanwick]: Yeah, John Corcoran is really good. He's a good guy. He used to be a speech writer for President Bill Clinton and he's very good at teaching you how to connect with heroes and cold emailing people. He's really good at that.
I would also say that if you go to www.JamesSwanwick.com/people you can get my people skills product there and I really walk you through like cold emailing with the scripts that you should say, what to say in conversations, what not to say. Yeah, you can check that out as well and that will help you but yes, certainly John Corcoran's really good and then also John C. Maxwell's book, Winning with People is terrific as well.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, thank you. Okay, last question. What are your top three recommendations to guys starting from scratch, from zero, they don't have any prior knowledge about dating, sex and relationships. What would be your top three recommendations for them to improve this aspect of their life as quickly as possible?
[James Swanwick]: I mean, I would just say get out, get a mentor or do a program, learn from someone and then, just out there and test it. It's not enough for you to just have knowledge in your head. It's got to be applied knowledge, applied knowledge.
So, get out there and make mistakes, make mistakes damn it because, if you don't then, you're not going to learn. We learn best from our mistakes, right? So, test everything, listen to what I've said in this interview, go out there and test something whether it's asking a different questions, get some feedback, see what works, see what doesn't and then, go again.
It's pretty simple but, don't just say, "Oh, I feel good now because, I listened to this interview and now, I feel good because I read John C. Maxwell's Winning with People" and then, just feel good about yourself and do nothing. You have to go out there and apply the knowledge. Knowledge is not power. Applied knowledge is power.
[Angel Donovan]: Some great points there. Thank you very much for that James and it's been great to connect with you. Thanks for being on the show.
[James Swanwick]: You're welcome. Thank you for having me. This is fun.
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DSR Podcast is a weekly podcast where Angel Donovan seeks out and interviews the best experts he can find from bestselling authors, to the most experienced people with extreme dating lifestyles. The interviews were created by Angel Donovan to help you improve yourself as men - by mastering dating, sex and relationships skills and get the dating life you aspire to.
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