Networking is a subtle art. The book that inspired me to write this post isNever Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Regarded by many as the How to Win Friends and Influence People of our time, Ferrazzi is a self proclaimed Master of Connecting. He see's it not as a simple skill, but as a philosophy of life in general. Notice I said connecting and not networking. There is a very big difference and that is what the book is all about.
Connecting is more than just exchanging contact info with some people you randomly met at a networking event, or reaching out to a certain someone you would like to meet and do business with. Connecting starts with truly giving value to others and not keeping score. As a side note this is a big trend in marketing these days, if you have read the book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk you will see the similarities in the two philosophies.
Keith discovered from a very young age that relationships are what life is all about. So many schools are teaching us to build every skill besides perhaps the most important one of all. If you look at the great connectors in our society such as Bill Clinton or the Dalai Lama, one principle that they both agree on wholeheartedly is how important it is to put 100% of your focus on others. The funny thing that the selfish were never taught is that the more you give in life- whether it is money, attention, respect, love, knowledge, or creativity, the more you get back in return. In todays society with such a high demand on our attention, it is so powerful to give someone 100% of your attention and be genuinely interested in them. It shows them that you actually care- even if it is only for 30 seconds as in the case of Bill Clinton.
My favorite chapter of Never Eat Alone is called the Genius of Audacity. In life the people who take the calculated risks receive all the rewards, this much is certain and this is what this chapter is all about. Going up to the CEO when everyone would rather stick with their low level coworkers at a company event, or approaching that beautiful woman when everyone else is too afraid. The Genius of Audacity all comes down to doing whatever it takes to help out you and your family succeed. If you want to read a book that I feel really touches on this idea, check out Jerry Weintraub's biography When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man. One of my all-time favorites.
Never Eat Alone is absolutely full of helpful tips from what to do at conferences, how NOT to network, handling gatekeepers, doing your homework when it comes to networking, cold calling, and much more. It seems to me that one of Keith's specialties is throwing dinner parties and performing what he calls " social arbitrage". This concept is essentially acting as the middleman between two parties that you feel would benefit from getting to know each other, for example an entrepreneur looking to meet a certain investor or a big executive at a company. This is really one of the more powerful uses for connecting, and one that opens up the doors to many opportunities in life.
Another great chapter in this book is on the Art of the Small Talk. Most people ( myself included at one time) believe that certain people are just born with more charm than others, the "gift of the gab" as they say. This chapter is focused on addressing that myth. While communication is a critical life skill, it turns out that most information on the topic is completely incorrect. An interesting study mentioned in this chapter by Stanford states that the one trait most correlated to success was actually "verbal fluency", not intelligence as some may think. So obviously if being able to speak and connect with anyone is absolutely critical to success in life, it is important to get better at it- but how?
Ferrazzi's theory is that when it comes to making a lasting impression, differentiating yourself from the crowd is crucial. The key here is vulnerability. He says that the old idea of avoiding unpleasant, overly personal, and highly controversial issues leads to a boring conversation and absolutely no impact. Another part of this equation is to simply be interesting- you can follow his steps to developing content - more on this later- and actually making the other person stop and be like " Wait, who is this guy? I like him( or her)! The key to being interesting is to expand your world view by taking in new sources of information. You need to develop your unique point of view in your professional life. Ferrazzi suggests to become a "voracious reader" ( I love that obviously) and to take the scuttlebutt approach of talking to various people in the industry that you are involved in, or want to learn about. Lastly you must bring your passion. The truth is that you can be talking about any boring old subject, but- if you are truly passionate about it, it will be very compelling to the other person. The old dating adage is true that it isn't what you say, but how you say it. A quote in the book that I feel really relates to this concept is "To move others, you have to speak beyond yourself".
A fundamental idea that is brought up in this book is to "build it before you need it". Think for a moment about how that applies not only to business and relationships, but to every other area of your life. You want to prepare for the dark day as the famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said. You need to be working out while you are young to build up your body for when you are old. You should have a certain amount of forgiveness or "margin of safety" built up not just in your health and social life, but your bank account as well. In the case of this book he suggests building up your relations with other people and businesses. This is important because when the time comes that you either start your own company, or move on to a new one, you will have people knocking on your door and not the other way around. This concept is essentially the idea behind this blog.
To cultivate your unique point of view and become a person of content you need to be up to date on the latest ideas, trends, skills, and causes in your field. You can gain authority not by becoming an expert on one thing, but by gathering various experts to you as well. Part of cultivating creativity is having a very large base of knowledge, and allowing ideas to bounce off each other serendipitously. Keith Ferrazzi calls this process connecting the dots, and it is something that the leaders at the forefront of business innovation consistently do. While there is no step by step guide, there is a good quote by Mark McCormack from the book What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School on the process: "Creativity in business is often nothing more than making connections that everyone else has almost thought of. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, just attach it to a new wagon." To become an expert at any subject is pretty simple, all you have to do is immerse yourself in it by speaking, writing, and teaching it.
In this day and age you have to become your own brand, hence why I created Ben Byrne Media. Self promotion is the name of the game these days, an excellent example is Donald Trump. Despite being extremely controversial you cannot deny that Trump is the ultimate master of self promotion. The evidence is simple when you are asked how many other real estate developers do you know of? If you are a shy person, you can rest assured that if aren't promoting your accomplishments, nobody else will. Like the old saying If I don't love myself, who will? Luckily for us it is easier than ever to have a voice these days. Keith says that like it or not, your success is determined as much by how well others know your work as by the quality of your work. Interesting.
The last part of this book touches on the mentor-mentee relationship and how you should constantly be seeking out both new mentors and mentees. The key here is to first add value to the potential mentors life- usually through sweat equity, loyalty, and a positive attitude. The trick is getting the mentor to be emotionally invested in your success. The idea is to change the relationship from mentor to a coach and to make it so that your success is their success as well.
At the end of the day there are a few true tests of whether or not you have created a connection with someone. A funny one mentioned in the book is the "Refrigerator Test". Basically which one of your friends and family could you go to right now and help yourself to their fridge without them getting angry at you? Another one is the smile test, when someone texts you randomly are you annoyed or do you smile when they talk to you? This goes both ways and it is something to really ponder.
It turns out the good life is created one relationship at a time, as we are after all extremely social creatures. The dominant theory after all as to why our brains are so big is because we have to deal with other complicated humans. There really is not much in this life that can be done without the help of other people if you really think about it. With that said it is vital that you start to build a network of genuine connections today.
Thanks for reading and thanks to Keith Ferrazzi for writing an amazing book. Feel free to connect with me! You can follow me on Instagram as well at BenByrneMedia.