Help yourself by helping your mentors to be better at their work.

Ryan Holiday, strategist and writer, became director of marketing for American Apparel at 21. His current company, Brass Check, has advised clients like Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as many best-selling authors. He’s a master practitioner at this strategy, having followed mentors and paved the way for their greatness, whilst learning how to be great himself. 

Ryan finds this a rewarding power strategy, much more effective than starting off trying to pursue personal glory. He believes greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. He says this strategy reduces your ego at critical times in your career, letting you absorb everything you can without the obstructions that block others’ vision and progress. The cumulative effect this strategy has over time is profound. 

For instance:

  • You learn a great deal by solving diverse problems.
  • You have countless new relationships and networks.
  • You develop a reputation for being indispensable.
  • You have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road.


  1. When you are just starting out, recognize the fundamental realities:
    a) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are;
    b) your attitude needs readjusting;
    c) most of what you think you know or most of what you learned in books or school is out of date or wrong.

  2. Identify possible mentor(s) or advisors.
    These mentors should be those who have more means, more experience, or more status than you.

  3. Attach yourself to people and organizations who are already successful.
    Be like a sponge, taking it all in. Master the grunt work that others think they are too good for. Learn about how things work and how to be successful.

  4. Discover opportunities to promote and assist your boss or mentor.
    Find outlets and people for collaboration and eliminate distractions that hinder their progress and focus. Find inefficiencies to free up resources. Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.

  5. Make a concerted effort to trade short-term gratification for a long-term payoff.
    Everyone else wants to get credit and be respected. But you are here to help, so fight this emotional and egotistical impulse. This is about providing support so that your boss or mentor can be good, can be better, not just look good.

  6. Be a rising star without threatening or alienating anyone.
    Give your boss or mentor feedback or question decisions in private and self-effacingly so as not to offend.

  7. Consider your work an investment in relationships and your own development.
    You are learning so much and building networks. You are moving both you and your boss forward simultaneously.

  8. Realize that you can use this strategy at any time: from before you have a job to moving up the ladder.
    This is useful when you start something new or find yourself inside an organization without strong allies or support. In fact, you may decide to never stop doing it.

  9. Let this behavior become natural and permanent.
    This is an infinitely scalable power strategy, there for you at any time.


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