Orrin Woodward on LIFE & Leadership

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    Former Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the financial, leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

    Orrin made the Top 20 Inc. Magazine Leadership list & has co-founded two multi-million dollar leadership companies. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of the LIFE. He has a B.S. degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering University) in manufacturing systems engineering. He holds four U.S. patents, and won an exclusive National Technical Benchmarking Award.

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Mentoring and Talent Scout

Posted by Orrin Woodward on April 30, 2013

Mentoring as a Talent Scout

Oliver DeMille and I have been bantering back and forth on the importance of mentoring in building teams, cultures, and organizations to create the LeaderShift. The number one ingredient I look for in someone to mentor is hunger, for everything else can be taught, but hunger must be caught! As Oliver says, “Don’t require, but inspire.” I love coaching/mentoring people, but I refuse to begin until I am convinced a person would proverbially “eat nails” to gain and apply wisdom. LIFE is a business of gaining and applying wisdom into the 8F’s of life. Are you willing to “eat nails” to gain wisdom? If you are, then, as Zig Ziglar used to say, I will see you at the top. Here are some thoughts Oliver and I developed on the subject.


Orrin Woodward

A mentor who understands powers of decline that are at work in the world knows that he must become a talent scout to maximize his impact as a leader.

Everyone has the potency to become a genius, but because of the laws of decline, statistically few people are willing to pay the price to really tap into that genius. Recognizing this sad fact, mentors should be careful to target their effort to those who will actually do something with it.

The story of the young man who had read the mentor’s book—and his friend who hadn’t—illustrates this point very well. A mentor who spreads his focus between 12 protégés, when only two of them are actually acting the part of a tenacious leader-in-training, is actually being less effective than he could be if he put his focus toward just the two who were both ready to work and worth his time. Of course, he needs to mentor a number of people to find the two protégés. Or better still, ten or twelve protégés.

It’s kind of like the saying, “A bird in the hand is better than two in the tree.” Three mentees who are truly fighting for their dreams are better than 10 who are flitting around hoping to find an easy road. Good mentors must learn to recognize the right kind of mentee—one who is really willing to walk the rocky, uphill path to success. In other words, good mentors must become Tenacity Scouts.

One mentor shared the following story:

“I’m often approached by people who want me to mentor them, but I’ve learned that my time is precious, so I don’t waste it on people who won’t really value it as they should.

“Once, a young woman came up to me at a book signing I did in her neighborhood. She wanted me to be her personal mentor. I immediately said no, as was my practice, but told her I could recommend some good books. She took the sticky note with three or four titles on it and she walked away, sadly. I thought that was the end of it.

“A few months later, my assistant told me there was a girl from Arizona on the phone for me, could I take it?

“It took me a few minutes to recall who this girl was, but when I realized it was the girl from the book signing, I was shocked.

“She told me she had read the titles I had given her, plus the biographies of two of the authors, and she had some questions for me.

She asked if I had an hour or two to discuss the books with her. I had a busy schedule that day, so I had to decline, but we scheduled a call for the next evening.

“When we discussed the books, I discovered that she really had read them all—quite thoroughly. There were some things she didn’t understand, and even a few we disagreed on, but it was an interesting conversation, to say the least.

“When we finished discussing the books, she had just one more question for me: wouldn’t I please reconsider, and agree to be her mentor?

“When I saw how hard she would work, not only to pursue her own success by reading great books, but also by persistently seeking out the mentor she wanted, despite obvious obstacles, I knew should was going to be successful someday, and I wanted to help get her there.

“Long story short, I said yes, and over the years I’ve found her to be one of my most dedicated and successful mentees and associates.”

Mentors should remember to focus their time and energy on those mentees who are really willing to take advantage of it. This means learning to recognize the signs of real tenacity.

If a mentee is easily deterred from achieving what she wants on the small things—such as reading a book, doing the basic work of success, or seeking out a good mentor—she is very unlikely to stick to her dreams when the real challenges come up; and they will come. Mentors should look for diligence, tenacity, ingenuity, initiative, optimism, and vision in perspective mentees. If they don’t have these qualities, they probably won’t choose to be in the 10% who really matter, and that 10% is where great mentors should put the power of their focus. Of course, the best way to find out is a person has the right traits is to give them a chance—put them to work!

34 Responses to “Mentoring and Talent Scout”

  1. Kirk Birtles said

    Orrin… I believe your posture in mentoring is one of the biggest breakthroughs you have had in the last handful of years! Hunger to ‘eat nails’ or no deal…love it!! kb

  2. Terry said

    Great reminders. Thanks to the LIFE/LIFE Training materials…acting as a mentor filter…while there are one on one specifics that a mentee eventually needs from their mentor, as you state there are a lot of “small things – such as reading a book” that make up the foundation for a successful mentor/mentee relationship.
    Thanks for everything you and the PC do.

  3. Sharon Hoffman said

    Pay any price to be in the presence of extraordinary people…and when necessary, Eat Nails! Thanks Orrin and Laurie for your example and your mentorship!
    Sharon Hoffman

  4. Raymond Abernathy said


    Thanks you for the insight, and challenge. A few years ago Oliver told a story of the leader speaking at a college graduation and asking who in the graduating class was determined to change the world and only having a handful of grads respond. Then addressing only those brave, bold and courageous enough to speak up and chase it down. I am excited by the challenge of reversing the laws of decline, and thanks for keeping the bar high my brother!


  5. Chad Waters said

    Hi Orrin!

    Great blog! One everyone asking for someone’s time needs to read and think about with myself included!

    I constantly tell people I can’t teach hunger and now I know how to combat it! Simply offer them the first step and let them prove it!

    Orrin great blog and great example you lead us by! Thanks for writing every blog! The hungry will read and comment on them!

    Thanks Again!

  6. Keith Sieracki said

    What great insight! I am learning for a culture to avoid the 5 laws of decline a 10% leader must strive to be a mentee, while using similar parameters/expectations to be a talent scout individuals for “next 10%”. As learning begets learning there will always be new leaders to fill any void within the community/organization and the young mentee will practice skills as a talent scout to mature into a future mentor. Thanks Orrin!

  7. Jennifer Thornton said

    There is a difference between biting one’s nails and “eating nails”; it seems that 10 percent of us have figured that out. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who are willing — and driven — to change those statistics. Some laws beg to be broken. The laws of decline and Sturgeon’s law are among those that clamor the loudest for this fracture. Thank you, Orrin — and company — for leading the charge.

  8. John Lewis said

    I remember seeing the hunger in Wayne Macnamara’s eyes to drive 5 hours to attend a Mens Leadership in Saginaw, Michigan. Being in that environment is contagious! I’m grateful for every opportunity to spend a few moments with the amazing leaders in this LIFE Community.

    Thanks Orrin for setting the example with your hunger!


  9. Great article!

  10. Dave Chatmon said


    Thank you for the road map to success


  11. Ken Hendon said

    Learning to value our time as much as You, Orrin, value yours is a great lesson. I ask myself constantly “am i spending, wasting, or investing my time?”
    Thanks for investing in us as a team and as individuals.

  12. Aaron said

    Thanks for sharing how we need to continue to do the little things to ultimately get the big things

  13. Rob Robson said

    I am ready to eat nails!

  14. Wow Orrin, thank you for this perspective. It really helps me compare who I am now to who I want to be. I have also, at times, felt like I was letting my mentor down. This is a great list for a melancholy gal to check herself against. I never want to be a waste of time for someone. To be sure, my mentors have NEVER done or said anything to make me feel that way. Just my own Goliath I need to overcome. Thanks for the help!

  15. Steve Duba said

    Thanks Orrin. Hunger! From Steven Coveys 8th Habit”The second greatest gift is the freedom to choose.Every day we choose.
    I choose nails,16 penny,8 penny, or roofin nails.Show me the box. God Bless

  16. Steve Leurquin said

    “Do it, and let (them) see you do it”

    One of my favorite messages from a great leader is “Open the door until the leaders chase you down! Lead brother lead!”

    Thanks for a great message on hunger!

  17. Awesome post. A great look at the awesome responsibility both the mentor and the mentee have in such an arrangement. Earning the right to get time with your mentor is an awesome and sobering thought. Earning the stripes to be a mentor is a battle unto itself. Hopefully all of us will find the appetite for “nails” and the heart to help others who will do the same.

  18. Brittany Schlabach said

    Incredible! This also serves as a guide in how to be a good, hungry student of a mentor.

  19. Elizabeth Sieracki said

    We must work smarter. We respect you and Laurie so much and realize your time is valuable. Our actions will prove our hunger and ability to chew nails.

  20. Kevin Hamm said


    One of the most impactful cds for me is 15 Plans vs. the Lies We Tell Ourselves. It plays in my mind often as I have listened to it many times. The beauty of striving for mentorship is all of the side benefits to the learning along the way. Ultimately it is the journey on the way to our goals that becomes the meaningful and most rewarding part. Thank you for the inspiration. If the Lord wills that I live, I will one day leap over that bar. In the mean time, I will continue to increase my hunger.

  21. Peggi Kern said

    Great article on mentoring, Orrin. I’m so glad you shared the insight. What touched me the most is the woman who came to you for mentoring and you gave her a list of books. I’m so impressed that she actually didn’t stop there, but read them and then called you back. Her courage is an inspiration to me, because it’s an example of the hunger to gain wisdom from someone with the results desired! Thank you for sharing!

  22. Adam Gonzales said

    Awsome to know the traits to develop to become a hungry student!

  23. Hi, we don’t eat nails in THE netherlands, but very nice post! IT seems to be a great example of cognitive activation (helping without pushing your own advice) and stimulating motivation from within!

  24. John Burns said

    Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled.

  25. Awesome article! A great reminder of the qualities you need to be in the 10 percent!

  26. Wes Smith said

    This is amazing stuff Orrin! It is a reminder to never let your hunger die. Thanks!

  27. J & P Harteis said

    This article really made us more appreciate all the time you & Laurie have poured into our lives already, Orrin! We feel so much better when hunger is directing our lives, & we ARE willing to eat nails to be able to continue to learn from you!

  28. AR said

    I believe that hunger is a quality that exist, is more evident, in people that have a clear purpose … If a person has purpose, has strong reasons to live life, he/she will be willing to do more … So, the mentor has a duty to detect for people with purpose … Ty

  29. Michael Hartmann said

    Another great article! It makes me realize that whenever someone chooses to “waste time”, it isn’t only their time that is wasted but their mentor’s time as well. That’s tragic as time is our most valuable commodity that can never be replaced. Thanks for the great reminder of what it means to value your mentors time.

  30. Bob Rasmussen said

    Great stuff on the mentor process! I love how you teach the principle of “holding the bar and helping those that are willing to jump over it”, thanks for the perspective. God bless Bob

  31. scott russell said

    Thanks for the great article Orrin, will apply in our own life as well as pay it forward to others!!!

  32. Mike Stratman said

    Orrin, the depth of your vision for people and what they can achieve is revealed once again with statements like this:

    “When I saw how hard she would work, not only to pursue her own success by reading great books, but also by persistently seeking out the mentor she wanted”…

    I pray one day I will be able to see the greatness in people as you or a Chris Mattis and Venkat Verada do and inspire them to their full potential. Thanks for all that you do. GBY

  33. CJ Calvert said

    Brilliant article, Orrin. As you’ve taught, holding the bar high on your team (and mentees) might feel uncomfortable, but its the only way to have a big organization. The protege aspires to raise their game to earn the respect of the mentor.

    You can add my name to the list of the ravenously hungry, nail-chomping protégés banging at the door!

  34. Cindy Yoder said

    I recently was PDCAing my own behavior and actions and realized I had fallen into the trap of trying to assit/mentor a few that were making no effort but that I just “knew” had the “skills” to win. This article is in such perfect timing!!! Orrin, I have heard you say multiple times to hold the bar high – I just wasn’t applying it into my own business!! I AM SUPER HUNGRY and will continue to read, listen, associate, apply, and PDCA – so one day I will have earned the honor of mentoring with you!!!! Thanks for the timely repost of a great blog!!!!

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