Winning Today and Tomorrow: Steven Dorn on the Compound Effect of a Proactive Mindset 

In nearly every podcast, article or self-help book, we are constantly given actionable tactics to improve our lives and meet our goals—the ideal morning routine, the 5-minute meditation used by millionaires, the ultimate fat-burning workout, the list goes on and on. Yet, no matter what your goals are in your personal or professional life, the first step that will give you the highest return is shifting your mindset. By changing your mindset, you’ll set the stage for other behavior alterations and habits to get developed in order to reach your goals.

One individual who’s a testament to the power of a proactive mindset is serial entrepreneur and branding expert, Steven Dorn. As the founder of music management and VC firm, XYZ Media, Dorn is responsible for helping kickstart the careers of Grammy-nominated R&B star Bryson Tiller, as well as Pink Sweat$ and others. Despite his young age and electing not to have a website for his company, Dorn has built an elite network of professional athletes, multimillionaire entrepreneurs, celebrities and influencers.

He was able to accomplish this in such a short period of time thanks to the compound, snowball effect of having a proactive mindset. What’s more is the same principles Dorn used in his own situation can be applied to any discipline or any set of goals. Here’s how you can activate that same mentality to reach your full potential.

#1. Identify the “hubs of opportunity” you have access to.

Growing up, Dorn didn’t live in a city that would traditionally be referred to as a “hub”, like NYC, Los Angeles or Miami. He actually grew up in Lexington, Kentucky—a city best known for their bourbon and college basketball. Instead of fleeing to a big city, Dorn switched on a proactive mindset by trying to discover how he could leverage his location to his advantage. After some time, he realized he could use the University of Kentucky sports program as a direct line to pro athletes, influencers and more. 

How would he be able to do this? By connecting with the athletes who attended the university and helping them with branding, marketing and management prior to them being drafted into the NBA. Whether it was how to position themselves in the marketplace or monetize their name once they went pro, Dorn added value to these athletes before they became household names—paving the way for a natural relationship with them to develop from the start, all from a small city in middle America.

What are the hubs of opportunity near you as it relates to your career? Is there a coworking space close to you where local entrepreneurs mingle? Is there a particular restaurant movers and shakers stop at when they’re visiting your town? No matter where you live, there are places where opportunities and connections can be made—all it takes is a proactive mindset and sound strategy.

#2. Prioritizing deep over shallow networking.

Cultivating a world-class network is integral to the success of any business venture, big or small. By being proactive and taking initiative, you’ll be able to thrust yourself into inner circles that can change your life as you know it—much like the growth that Dorn has experienced from doing so. 

5X bestselling author and business icon, Tim Ferriss, has one piece of advice when it comes to networking: go deep rather than narrow. Instead of making dozens of shallow connections with individuals, focus on cultivating deep, meaningful relationships with a few powerful people. High-profile figures tend to know other high-profile people across a variety of industries, so knowing one person may open the door to a dozen more, and so on.

This is the precise approach Dorn took when developing his own personal and business relationships. Because of the connection he had built with Houston Rockets power forward, Terence Jones, when he was still a student athlete at Kentucky—Jones opened the doors for Dorn to help more pro athletes with their branding and marketing. He applied the same principle with his good friend and pro NBA player, Nerlens Noel. After Noel got drafted from Kentucky to play for the Philadelphia 76ers, Dorn moved in with him and used it as an opportunity to connect with other players and to travel to New York regularly—where he eventually got plugged into the NYC entrepreneurial scene.

Prioritizing deep, meaningful relationships with individuals as opposed to building as many shallow connections as possible can go a long way. Networking and relationship-building is a snowball effect, and taking initiative when creating it can cause ripple effects when it comes to reaching your goals.

#3. Find holes in skill sets.

When Dorn began to connect with the musicians and athletes in his area, he identified the ways in which he could add value to them. The main areas were branding, marketing and management. Oftentimes, an artist or athlete would much rather focus on their craft as opposed to learning the X’s and O’s of business, making it a ripe opportunity for others to lend them a helping hand.

To start, make a list of your skills and begin to identify which of those areas could most benefit the people you’re trying to connect with. Are you a marketer who can assist software developers by effectively promoting their app? Are you a business operations manager who can help visionary founders get their idea off the ground? We all have unique skill sets, and using our own to fill the gaps in others’ skill sets can take you to infinity.

#4. Good people win.

There’s a huge misconception in the business world about being a nice, cordial person. Many mistake kindness as fragility—as someone being a pushover who’s easy to step on. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, a person can be both kind and assertive. Entrepreneurial mogul, Gary Vaynerchuk, even says, “It makes me laugh to hear so many people say kindness is weakness. In reality, it’s the ultimate strength.”

Being a person who others like to be around will help expand your network faster than you’d ever thought was possible. Why? Because people you’re already connected with will introduce you to other people they know and respect. If Steven wasn’t liked and respected first by Terence Jones and Nerlens Noel, they wouldn’t have introduced him to their other friends, and so on. If a person has been liked by many for a sustained period of time, that’s a good indicator they’re a solid person. As you build up your network and practice a proactive mindset, keep in mind that being kind is never a bad choice—it’s a shrewd business move and the right thing to do.

In the coming year, adopt a proactive mindset when it comes to achieving your goals. By doing so, you’ll put yourself in a position to win no matter your situation, location or skill set—and following the tips laid out in this article is a great place to start.


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Eduard Watson Author

An experienced finance writer for more than 10 years, active industry watcher, and gadget enthusiast.

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