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How to connect with influencers, get featured on major media, and reach millions across the globe

From suicidal alcoholic to globally recognized author endorsed by the Dalai Lama: A step by step guide

 

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How to connect with thought leaders like the Dalai Lama, get featured on major media, and reach millions across the globe

By Akshay Nanavati

I woke up with my mind, body and spirit ravaged by 5 days of nonstop binge drinking. As the sun rose outside, I sat up on my couch. Clinging to my throbbing skull, I glared down at the near-empty bottle of vodka below me. Over time, I had progressed to downing almost a liter of vodka in a day. Inevitably, this took its toll on me. In a moment I will never forget, I decided there was no point going on…

Years after serving in Iraq with the United States Marines, I had been diagnosed with PTSD by the Veteran Affairs administration. I was battling with a constant sense of guilt for not having done enough to earn my place on this planet. I struggled with life in the “normal world” and descended into depression. But, when the thought of taking my own life entered my mind, that was the final straw. I couldn’t live that life anymore. Something needed to change.

I dedicated myself to years of research in neuroscience, psychology and spirituality. What began as a mission to heal my own brain, ended up leading me on a greater quest to figure out how do we all live happier and more meaningful lives.

My rise from the abyss was far from smooth, or easy, but there on that couch, in the depths of darkness, emerged what would later become Fearvana.

 

 

Transforming struggle into success

Like any author who transforms their own suffering into a work of art in service of our collective human family, the book itself is just the beginning. It doesn’t matter how great the book is, if no one reads it then it might as well not exist.

The number 1 struggle that authors, bloggers and online entrepreneurs face is growing an audience. After devoting 3 years to writing Fearvana, I was no different. I had a finished manuscript in hand, but no website, no brand and no platform.

Yet, in just under a year of completing Fearvana, I received endorsements for the book from people like Jack Canfield, Seth Godin, Marshall Goldsmith, Cal Newport, Keith Ferrazzi, Marci Shimoff, and many other incredibly inspiring individuals. I was also blessed to receive a foreword from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Fearvana has now been featured on top media outlets like INC, Bloomberg, Forbes, NBC, ABC, Fast Company and entrepreneur.com, to name a few. I have been interviewed on some of the most popular podcasts in the world with millions of monthly downloads, such as Art of Charm, Entrepreneur On Fire, So Money and Unmistakable Creative, among many others.

I have sold thousands of copies of Fearvana in over 40 countries, and raised thousands of dollars for charity, as all the profits from the book are being donated to worthy causes around the world.

Perhaps most importantly, I have received feedback from readers saying things like “One of the most important books on transformation I have ever read,” “a must read.” “this is truly life changing” and “this book is like my new bible.” Through Fearvana I have helped people who have been struggling with alcoholism, PTSD, anxiety disorder and many other ailments permanently transform their lives.

I don’t tell you any of this to brag. I tell you this because I want you to know that no matter where you are now, you too can replicate these kinds of results, and hopefully exceed them. All you have to do is follow a system that has been proven to work.

Here’s exactly what I did to achieve some measure of success on my journey as an author so far:

 

 

Write an epic book

This should go without saying, but it’s still a point worth reinforcing.

It took me about 3 years, a countless number of edits and trashing over 100,000 words to complete Fearvana. It was a lot of work, and it was absolutely worth it. Today, I can truly say I am proud of this book, and I am 100% confident in its ability to make a positive difference in the lives of my readers. I could not have said that about the first few drafts.

Here are 2 simple formulae I used to produce something valuable for those who give their time, money and energy to it:

1. Why, What, How, Now

I used this formula for the entire book and for each chapter. The way it works is you start each chapter with why it’s important to the reader and why they should care about this. Then you explain what that chapter is about and what are the key takeaways from it. The what section is a good time to back up your points with research and evidence. The next step is to tell your readers how to apply the material in their lives. Finally, you give them a clear action step to take immediately after reading that chapter.

2. Story, point, action

The story, point, action formula syncs perfectly with the previous one. To explain the why, I started each chapter with a story. Stories are extremely powerful hooks to draw readers in and make them emotionally connect with the content to follow. Then I explained the point of that story and what it means for the reader. Throughout each chapter, I also used short stories as a means to connect the rational evidence to real-world examples of it in action and to keep readers engaged through emotion. Finally, I gave the readers action steps to take in almost every chapter.

One of my biggest frustrations with many personal development books is the lack of actionable material. I did not want Fearvana to just be a book of ideas. I wanted it to be something people can use to improve their lives. As a result, the depth of actionable content was a common theme in the positive reviews of Fearvana on Amazon and in the direct feedback I received. Clear action steps make the difference between a book that feels good to readers versus a book that transforms their lives.

Creating an epic book takes a lot of time, effort and energy. There is no one “right” amount of any of those resources that the writing process demands. As you embark upon this odyssey, you will start to figure out exactly how much will be required of you. The greatest lessons are always in the doing.

 

 

Success is a marathon, not a sprint

This step is about your mindset. Nothing worthwhile is achieved overnight. Right from the start, it is essential to stay present to that fact, to accept that significant results will take time and to focus your energy on achieving long-term victories, not just quick wins.

From the time I finished the manuscript to the time I launched my book, I gave myself about 9 months to ensure I could build up enough momentum to fuel a successful launch. Of course, this didn’t mean that once I launched the book, the marketing would stop, but at some point I knew I needed to pull the trigger because it would never be “perfect.” I resolved to do everything I could within those 9 months. After that, I would learn what worked and what didn’t to continue promoting the book.

Playing the long game requires a lot of patience. But if you exercise that patience and you choose to stay committed, your efforts will pay off.

For example, it took me about 4-5 months from the moment I made contact with the office of the Dalai Lama to then receive the foreword from Him. Throughout that period, I experienced a great deal of fear and self-doubt. I kept thinking to myself who am I? Why would the Dalai Lama endorse my book? What if they all think it’s garbage?

It’s okay and perfectly normal to feel these kinds of feelings, what matters is how you choose to respond to them.

 

 

I allowed myself to be with whatever showed up within

And leveraged those moments as an opportunity to practice rising above my feelings in service of the mission at hand. I made a conscious effort to be patient with myself and the process, doing only what I could within my power to control the outcome. For those 4-5 months, I was pleasantly persistent in my communication with the monk at the office of His Holiness, focusing on building a relationship with him, regardless of whether or not I received the endorsement.

Beyond just the foreword I received from His Holiness, I am extremely grateful for the friendship I have developed with that monk. He is an amazing human being and I have learned a great deal from him in our communications.

That friendship began as a result of me being proactive in reaching out to him in the first place. Which brings me to the next step of this process…

 

 

How I connected with the Dalai Lama and got major media exposure across the globe

Depending on the person I was reaching out to, my purpose for the outreach, and the kind of media I was pursuing, I used a different set of strategies to establish a connection and lay the foundation for a meaningful relationship.

Here’s what I did:

1. To get endorsements for Fearvana, I shot a personal video for the people whose work had made a tremendous impact in my life, some of whom even helped save my life.

These videos were not fancy. Most of the videos I shot were grainy and were nothing more than me standing in front of a closet talking. More important than the quality was the content of the video. The videos were between 2 to 4 minutes. I started by thanking the person for the specific role they played in my life.

I then shared my story of going from drugs to the Marines to war to overcoming PTSD and alcoholism that pushed me to the brink of suicide, and how that led to the concept of Fearvana. I then made my request to them for the endorsement, described how the book aligned with their own philosophies, and finally I shared the greater impact I want to make in the world through Fearvana.

After I shot the video, I uploaded it to YouTube as an unlisted video and shared it with each person through email. This is how I got the endorsement from His Holiness.

A personal video stands out a lot more than an email, even if the words are the same. Videos allow people to see you and connect with you. This helps them feel your passion and see the impact you want to make through your work. However, if you aren’t genuine in your appreciation, in your message, and in your desire to serve, it will be evident. I only reached out to people whose work really had made a difference in my life, not just people whose names I wanted on my book.

 

 

2. To connect with writers on media outlets like INC and Forbes, I reached out via email. I often started out just by saying thank you and acknowledging them for their work.

To stress this point again, this has to be genuine and not something fake. I only reached out to writers whose work resonated with me. I started building the relationship via email, which more often than not led to either a video call or an in-person meeting. Over time, many of these writers offered to write about me without me even having to ask for it. Remember, it’s the relationships that matters, not the one time exposure.

3. To get booked on TV shows, cold calling followed up by an email was my primary strategy.

For example, when I was invited to speak at the Lions Club centennial event, I cold-called ABC and FOX to let them know I would be in Chicago. I then told them who I was and why I was there. Those calls got me booked on 2 stations in the third biggest television market in the country. For television publicity, start with local TV stations before you work your way up to national TV.

4. To get interviewed on podcasts, I either leveraged a mutual contact to get an introduction (see the next step for how to do this) or I made a cold pitch.

The format for the cold pitch was simple: After listening to some of the shows and/or reading about the host, I began the email by sharing something specific I appreciated about their work. I then introduced myself and my work, made the ask to share my story on their show, gave them a bulleted list of valuable insights I could provide to their audience, offered some social proof in the form of endorsements and previous media exposure, and finally I thanked them for their consideration. That’s it! I got on many, many shows using this format.

As you build up momentum with more social proof, people will start coming to you. Exposure fuels more exposure. But you can’t count on it, so you always need to be wiling to…

 

 

Ask, ask, ask

This is one of the key ideas I learned from my mentor Jack Canfield in his book The Success Principles. If you want something, ask for it. Of course you want to do it in a polite and friendly way. Don’t be forceful about it, but be willing to take the risk and ask for what you want, because if you don’t make an ask, the answer is always no.

For example, after being interviewed on a fairly popular podcast, I discovered that the host was connected to the host of another very popular podcast. Obviously, he wasn’t going to make the introduction on his own. Why would he? He’s not a mind reader and I couldn’t expect him to know what I wanted. Unless I requested it. I reached out to him and very asked him if he would be open to making an introduction to the host of the other podcast I wanted to be featured on.

This led to my interview on the Art of Charm, a podcast with over 4 million monthly downloads.

As long as you follow all the steps in this article, people will almost always be willing to support you in any way they can. And if you really adhere to the next 3 steps, you might even get more than what you asked for. I didn’t ask His Holiness for a foreword, I only asked for a one-line endorsement. I was blown away and humbled to have received a full foreword from Him. As another example, I got an introduction to someone who wrote for Bloomberg without even asking for it. That feature was then syndicated to a countless number of media outlets all over the globe.

The introduction set the stage for making that possible, but it was up to me to ensure I deliver value when I spoke to the writer

 

 

The one simple strategy I used to deliver immense value on every interview

Many of the podcast hosts and televisions anchors who interviewed me told me I was one of the best guests they have had on their show. This isn’t because I am someone special. I assure you I’m not. I just followed a very simple strategy to give the best interview possible for the host and for their audience. It doesn’t matter whether the show you are being interviewed on has millions of listeners or just one, always come into it with the mindset that you will over deliver. Here is how you do that:

Strike a balance between your humanity and your expertise.

Your humanity is your story. It is your hero’s journey filled with all the highs and lows. Be willing to share your greatest successes and your deepest, darkest struggles. Emotionally compelling stories will draw people closer to you. Your humanity is what people will most remember about all your interviews.

Your expertise is your ability to help others with your knowledge. When you share your expertise, use evidence to validate your arguments. This will give you authority and credibility. Most importantly, to demonstrate your expertise, transform the insight you provide into something actionable for the audience. Give them clear and practical steps to apply your material into their lives.

Think of humanity as the emotional side and expertise as the rational side. Tap into both of these elements and the audience will love you for it.

 

 

Create and nurture long-lasting, meaningful relationships

Whether you are connecting with an influencer, a journalist, a TV producer, a podcast host, or someone’s assistant, enter into the relationship, no matter how short it might be, with the mindset that this person will become your friend.

I know that when we authors pitch someone, we are looking for a way to promote our book, and almost always, the person on the other side knows that as well. Nonetheless, don’t go into any relationship with the mindset that you just want to get something out of them and then you’re done.

I do not recommend bringing people into your life only because you want them to promote your book.

That kind of short-term thinking will not only hurt your chances of getting more exposure, it will also be doing you a disservice in terms of losing out on potentially profound relationships. It’s not just the one interview or the one media mention that matters, it’s the relationship you develop with someone that creates the possibility of continued success over the long run.

Nurture every one of your relationships and build something beautiful out of them, for your sake and for the other person. Here are 7 ways to do that:

  • Be vulnerable when you connect with people. When you share your story with vulnerability and authenticity, it opens people up to you. It helps them relate to you on a deeper level and creates a space for them to be real with you as well. That naturally develops a more powerful connection. Think about it, did you feel more connected to me when you read my story at the start of this article?
  • Make introductions whenever possible. As you gain more exposure and your network continues to grow, that will help you help others. You could connect a podcast host to a potential guest or a journalist to another author or one influencer to another influencer. Whenever you make these introductions, ask both parties involved before you connect them to each other. That will ensure everyone willingly enters into the relationship and everyone wins.
  • Go meet them in person if possible. I have spent hours hanging out with people who have interviewed me on their podcast or written about me on a major media outlet. This led to many amazing conversations and invaluable friendships
  • Make people your friend. Don’t overthink this. Think about any friend you have. How did you develop that friendship? How do you make friends to begin with? Just do that with everyone you connect with. Without a doubt, one of the best parts about the exposure I have gotten from podcasts and media has been the lifelong friendships I have developed with the people who helped make that possible.
  • Ask people how you can be of service to them. When they tell you, actually deliver on their request.
  • Express genuine gratitude. When someone promotes you to their audience, never forget they put in a lot of time, effort and energy to build that audience. Acknowledge them for that and appreciate them for helping you share your message with their tribe. I will intentionally beat down this point here: Don’t just do this to be fake! You and I both know how challenging it is to build an audience, so respect the fact that anyone promoting you to theirs has worked really hard and thank them for giving you their stage to share your work. I like to send a small token of gratitude in the form of a gift card. This makes a tremendous difference. Trust me, most people are not doing this.
  • Find ways to collaborate. I am now working with one of the podcast hosts who interviewed me to launch something in India together. This seeds for this collaboration were planted as a result of these 6 other relationship building methods being put into action.

Ultimately though, whether it was nurturing a relationship or reaching out to someone for the first time, the one mindset that made the biggest difference for me was the realization that…

 

 

It’s not about you

I don’t know about you, but for me, writing is very very hard. I struggled with writing Fearvana. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Often I would avoid writing by going out to run anywhere from 15 miles to a marathon. I would then justify my procrastination by telling myself at least I was still doing something and not just sitting around watching TV. We both know I was just running away from the truth, literally and figuratively.

Beyond the writing itself, marketing, promoting and selling a book is also really hard. That process never ends. Eventually you might get to a point where the snowball effect takes over and the momentum you have generated fuels more momentum without you having to expend a great deal of time or energy. But it takes a lot of work to get there, and the work still won’t end even when you do, it will just look different.

The one mindset that helped me finish writing my book and take on the work it took to promote it (especially when I got a series of rejections in a row) was “it’s not about me.”

This mindset continues to give me the strength to stay committed to Fearvana, no matter what it takes. It even helped me finish this article.

I get it though. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the grind and forget why we’re in it. So, to embrace this mindset, find a triggering mechanism that works for you to activate that kind of thinking. I watch  this scene from Black Hawk Down.

Not only did that movie get me out of a lifestyle of drug addiction that killed two of my friends in high school, it also resonates deeply with me as a Veteran. That scene when he says “it’s about the men next to you,” touches my soul every time. It reminds me that this whole journey is not about me, it’s about the people I serve. Just coming from that mental and spiritual state makes a big difference.

Before I reach out to anyone or speak on stage, I watch that scene to put myself in this space of service. I am 100% certain I would not have gotten the results I achieved without doing this.

Today I am grateful for that moment on my couch when I thought about taking my own life. It led me to Fearvana. As you continue your journey of writing or promoting your book, embrace your demons and your divinity. Channel the energy of both into the people you want to serve, because there are millions of people out there who need to hear your message.

 

 

THE CHALLENGE

I now have a challenge for you: As I mentioned, one of the most valuable strategies I used to develop relationships has been shooting a personal video. So, I invite you to shoot a video for someone who has made an impact in your life. Share your story with them and just thank them for who they are and what they do, even if you don’t have an ask yet.

If you would like my help with your video before you share it with someone else, it would be my honor and pleasure to support you. Share the video with me and I will give you my honest feedback. I only ask that you keep the video under 2 minutes. Get in touch with me right here.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

 

Akshay overcame drug addiction, PTSD & alcoholism and has since explored the most awe-inspiring environments on the planet, started a nonprofit foundation, built a business helping people live limitless lifestyles, and wrote “Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear Into Health, Wealth and Happiness.” Buy the book here and get Akshay’s free training on how to reach millions across the globe, even if you have no brand, no platform or no website.

 

And now we want to hear from you: how have you turned “fear” into something positive? Are there any of Akshay’s experiences you can use for your own business? Leave a comment below!

12 Comments
  1. Sheila says:

    Congratulations Akshay! Very inspiring and great advice. Thank you so much. (Sorry, it’s a bit late here, nearly 1am, to write much more but I didn’t want to read and run!).

  2. Lyn says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Akshay. I love the fact that it does move from bird’s eye view to “now put this foot here and that foot there” specificity. Your story is inspiring and your post is useful. Thanks!

  3. Saranit Vongkiatkajorn says:

    Wow, Akshay, you’re right: the initial story really did draw me into the amazing content that you just delivered. Thank you for showing me what you mean by also doing it as example. The part that struck me most was how ‘It’ s not about you.’ That resonated with one of my greatest fears about writing. All best to you and thank you for putting in the time, effort, and will to write this article.

  4. Akshay Nanavati says:

    Thanks Sheila, so glad you found this useful. Hope you managed to get some rest 🙂

  5. Akshay Nanavati says:

    My pleasure Lyn 🙂 Really happy that you enjoyed the structure of the article, that you were inspired by it and you got value from it as well. I’m curious, what specific action most resonated with you?

  6. Akshay Nanavati says:

    Hi Saranit. Stories are one of the most powerful techniques to build connection and engagement. Thanks for the best wishes and the acknowledgement – knowing that this article provides value makes all the time and effort worth it 🙂 Coming from that place of “it’s not about you” will really help you with your writing, so I’m glad that it resonated. It’s been proven that coming from a place of service helps us move through our fears, it doesn’t eliminate them 🙂 But it does help us rise above them to accomplish the task at hand. I wish you all the very best with your writing as well and keep me posted on how it goes.

  7. Derek Murphy says:

    This is an amazing resource. I usually don’t focus on all this stuff because it seems like too much work, but I know you need to do more than what’s comfortable and your results are super. Congrats!

  8. Julie says:

    Wow what an inspiring and practical approach. Guess you used that emotional and rational combo in this blog post too! Sounds like a great book. Wishing you every success.

  9. Gabriel says:

    Thank you! Thank you! A resounding ‘YES!’ to all of the pivotal points you have shared. I’m at the beginning stages of building an author platform and it’s so lovely and heartening to read an article that aligns with my values and clarifies my thinking. I’m sending you much love and gratitude for sharing your experiences and for giving me a timely inspiration boost.

  10. Akshay Nanavati says:

    Thanks Derek, so glad you found it valuable 🙂 It does take a bit of work, but as you get into it more, the work itself becomes enjoyable, not just the results. Keep at it my friend 🙂

  11. Akshay Nanavati says:

    Thank you so much Julie 🙂 When you can tap into both brains, the “animal brain” and the “human brain” within yourself and others, it creates magnificent new possibilities!

  12. Akshay Nanavati says:

    Thanks a ton Gabriel, really appreciate it. I’m really glad this inspired you and resonated with you. Sending you lots of love and best wishes on your author journey as well 🙂 Please feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions as you grow your platform.

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