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genius network

My mentor, the late great copywriter Gary Halbert, once said something that I’ve never forgotten: “Any problem in the world can be solved with the right sales letter.” Though that applies well to writing, I’ve since expanded that piece of wisdom and applied it in my own life another way: “Any problem in the world can be solved with the right Genius Network.”

While a standard network is any group of people who are connected by proximity, history, or some other circumstance, a Genius Network is an intentional network of people who have skills, capabilities, and genius you can access whenever you need a connection, idea, or solution. People who can help you solve problems, meet challenges, and reach opportunities. Still, the important thing to remember is that Genius Networks come into existence in order to address problems. In other words, what drives a Genius Network is pain and suffering, plus the motivation to solve it. With that in mind, here are the five ways to create your own Genius Networks in the world.


best ways to create a genius network

1. Use The Genius Network Discovery Tool

Genius Networks don’t just fall into your lap. To have one, you must become a Genius Networker who does Genius Networking so you can eventually have a Genius Network. To get started though, you can do this simple exercise:

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle.
  2. Draw eight smaller circles in a ring around it.
  3. In each of the smaller circles, write the name of one of the eight most important people in your life.
  4. Under their name, describe their skills and capabilities.
  5. Now think about how you can help each of those people. And think about how they can help you.

Doing this illustrates the first point of Genius Networks, which is that they have to be put together thoughtfully and intentionally. With this exercise, you will have the first step of Genius Networking done, which is to identify the most impactful people in your life, what they offer you, and what you can offer them.

Though you can do this for your life in general, you can also do it more specifically for an area of your life to improve—whether it’s financial, spiritual, fitness-related or whatever else you want to work on. Of course, in order to get any benefit from the group of people you choose, the effort put in has to be reciprocal.

As Dan Sullivan has said on our 10xTalk podcast: “You should never expect any opportunity to be given to you unless you give value to other people.” It is why you must think about what you can do or offer to others to be genuinely useful to them (the key word here is genuinely). To be part of a Genius Network, you can’t have a one-sided “taker” agenda.

2. Work on Becoming a “Pain Detective”

To improve your Genius Networking skills, you should focus first on becoming a “pain detective”—because while it may not seem obvious at first, connecting and networking with other people is almost always about relieving pain, even if that pain is relatively slight in the grand scheme of things. When two people decide to start up a friendship, they are trying to relieve the pain of loneliness or boredom, and they now have a two-person “network” that solves that problem (along with whatever other problems they might discuss).

A proximity friendship isn’t the same as a Genius Network, but both operate by some of the same principles. In a Genius Network, everyone in the group is well connected, wants to give to others, and probably has some external markers of success, whatever that means to them; in a friendship or other commonplace network, not all of those things need to be true.

The problem is when people are very successful, it generally means they are “givers” of value—which tends to attract “takers” who just want a referral, a sale, or a handout without offering anything in return. From the outside looking in, we tend to think highly successful people don’t have many problems or needs, or that they’re happy all the time—but in my experience, some of the financially richest people in the world are the most sad and disconnected.

In order to get the benefits of networking with highly successful people, being a pain detective can go a long way. In other words, rather than seeing what you can get from an interaction, switch the focus to listening to their needs and to what you can give. In some cases, you may only be able to give a connection to someone else or even just your time to listen to them, but because it can get very lonely at the top, even that can go a long way.

3. Be as “In-Person” as Possible — and Remember to Follow Up

Though most people that are pursuing a big goal have been to a few meet-ups or conferences, met interesting people, and exchanged numbers with them, how many people actually followed up on those initial connections? And if they did, how many of those follow-ups actually resulted in anything?

The problem with networking as we traditionally understand it is that it feels incredibly transactional for everyone involved—and nobody likes feeling like just another means to someone else’s end. When approaching social situations like this, we get the eerie feeling that the people we’re talking to are only half paying attention, that they’re not even in the room with us (despite literally being in the same room).

To form better connections and create more impactful Genius Networks, you have to focus on being as “in-person” as possible when interacting with people. This means responding to what they’re saying in the moment, being curious about their needs and their life, and not simply trying to rush through the interaction. Don’t rely too much on formalities and show some actual personality to make people feel comfortable!

Finally, once you have gotten someone’s number or business card, be the person who follows up. Though being “in-person” sounds like you have to be together, this principle still applies to the follow-up as well. A cold text message or a templated email doesn’t feel like in-person communication—but a funny and personalized video, an interesting picture with a note, or a thoughtful voicenote does.

Going the extra mile here will differentiate you from 90% of people by showing that you’re not just a means to an end, nor are you trying to use them as a means to your end. Instead, you’re a real person who is trying to form a deeper, genuine connection, which is something everyone wants.

4. Communicate vs. Connect vs. Escape

Genius Networks are about solving for specific suffering and pain, which requires enough curiosity and connection with others to be able to identify what the suffering is in the first place. Making those deep connections relies on good communication skills that get beyond small talk, which can be difficult for all kinds of reasons (whether feeling anxious yourself or struggling to get someone else to open up).

To communicate better and more deeply, it helps to take a step back and identify the kinds of communication we tend to do. In general, when two people are trying to communicate, they are falling into one of three categories: connect, communicate, or escape. Communicating is the base level of simply talking to someone, and may be limited to small talk—this is where both people are interacting but are not particularly attached to one another. Connecting is when the conversation has moved to a deeper place, and both people are in a flow state, appreciating one another’s company. Finally, escape is when one or both people are only half present or are actively in pain, trying to get out of the conversation.

Rather than trying to memorize any interesting lines or jokes to impress others, instead focus on this rule and ask: Of these three categories, where am I right now? If you’re only communicating, lean in a little more; take more risks or ask a more personal question until you find a point of true connection. If you or the other person is escaping, take a step back and redirect the conversation; if you want to leave the conversation, say something to change the subject or make a joke to interrupt things. If the other person is visibly escaping, address it directly with compassion or change the subject to something they find interesting. By adjusting when you find yourself in the wrong area, you’ll find yourself connecting more and more in conversations, leading to deeper and more impactful relationships in the long run.

5. Figure Out What Needs to be Solved

While 80% of Genius Networking involves focusing your effort on other people and how to provide value to them, there’s still a remaining 20% that you need to figure out for yourself. In other words, what issues do you have in your life that could benefit from having a Genius Network? What problems in your life need to be solved?

To figure this out and get what I call a Return on Genius, you can use a tool that I call What Needs Solved? To do this exercise, answer these four questions:

  1. What problem needs to be solved in your life?
  2. What would your life or business look like if you were able to solve that problem?
  3. What would the three biggest benefits be of solving that problem?
  4. Who do you know who can help you solve the problem?

While the first three questions will help you get maximum clarity and a positive vision about your problem, the fourth starts to put Genius Networking into action by getting other people involved who can help. Once you’ve put in the time, attention, money, energy and effort needed to help others and grow a strong Genius Network around you, this exercise will help you get something out of your efforts in return.


Joe has also helped build thousands of businesses and generated hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients with the straightforward practice, asking, "What's in it for them?". He has been featured in INC, Fortune, Forbes, Success, U.S. News & World Report, and taught his nine networking principles to get what you want by helping others get what they wish to at Stanford University. Joe also hosts three top-ranked marketing and business podcasts on iTunes, including iLoveMarketing, 10xTalk, and GeniusNetwork.