Jim Rohn, famed American author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, said,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Think about that.
If your five closest friends are bad at managing their finances, or their idea of what they should do every night is getting drunk, smoking weed, watching TV, or playing video games, then what do you think you are likely to do?
If your five closest friends are successful in business or are financially well off, don’t you think their habits, best practices and life hacks will be easy to learn and apply to your own life and career?
Do you think these five successful people will invite you into their lives and social circles if you have nothing of value to add to their own lives? Do you think they will desire to share their time and resources with you?
It’s all about adding value. This is the most important action you can do in relationships, and frankly business in general. It is a simple action that will lead to your success.
I’ve written previously about my good friend, Yury Vilk (see: Face First into Fist). He is a fellow classmate at my Kung Fu school in Boulder, Colorado. Aside from being one of my primary sparring partners he is an expert in web building, SEO, WordPress, E-Commerce, and internet marketing. Whenever I am lost or stuck in those areas, as I often am, I reach out to him. Yury helps me find fixes and bridges my knowledge gaps.
Aside from friendship and being his punching bag once in a while, I try to find ways to reciprocate the immense value he adds to my life.
I spend a lot of time studying improvement and personal development. Sometimes Yury has trouble processing the traditional ways or bureaucratic aspects of our Kung Fu training. Like most, he can become frustrated and those emotions create within him hasty plans for action. I try to provide him a sounding board and constructive feedback on how to process his negative emotions in positive ways. It’s one of the ways I try to repay the value that he provides me.
So you understand that you need to add value. What next?
It’s time to surround yourself with people who are at where you want to be. You want to be with people who have what you want. This is not an envious statement as much as a gathering statement. You do not want your friend’s Maybach. You want to figure out how to become successful enough to afford your own Maybach.
Forgive the douchey reference to an expensive material possession, but you get the idea. This may be exemplified by a quality work/life balance. It may be a healthy and active lifestyle that you desire. It may be just surrounding yourself with high value friends and relationships in your life.
If you look around and realize you are surrounded by people who lack the things you want in your life, then chances are those people are not going to help you get to where you want to go.
There are two ways to achieve the goal of surrounding yourself with quality people and achievers. First is to reduce the time spent with low value people and increase the time spent with the high value ones already in your life. This is usually done through improving habits and a discerning look at the activities you choose to spend valuable time on.
The second way is necessary if you don’t have the high value people already in your life.
You may have not exposed yourself to the kind of high quality people you need, or you may have let those relationships fade and fizzle with time, lack of contact, and poor choices on your own part. I have been guilty of this myself in the past. I make efforts to do better at this today.
Networking can seem like a painful task or daunting if it is not a regular practice in your life. You need to reverse this thinking. (See: 10 Reasons to Start Looking at Networking Positively) Networking is essential in the modern business world. Have you ever heard the saying,
“It’s not what you know, but who you know?”
Of course you have. Everyone has heard it many times. It is usually proclaimed as a complaint by someone who got passed over for a promotion for someone else with connections. It is used as a statement of jealousy.
I will challenge you to reverse this traditional thinking in favor of looking at the statement in a positive way.
“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
There. Doesn’t that feel different? The second way of looking at it is positive. It is more within our control. If I meet and connect with more people, then I increase the likelihood of opportunities in my life.
I’ve heard estimates of job seekers’ success rates of finding a job through submitting a resume and an application to be at around ten percent. (From AOC episode 455: Alex Kouts “Getting Hired at a Startup.”) Ten percent! That includes McDonald’s, Chipolte, Walmart, and all the other jobs where one of your primary daily tasks will be cleaning the toilets. The cited study also noted that certain companies will outright delete the hundreds or thousands of emails they receive on the days of the week that they do not have screening candidates scheduled in. That’s some long odds!
Inversely, the success rate of finding a job through your network is above seventy percent. (Also from AOC episode 455) Only three of the twelve jobs I have gotten in my life have been found through the traditional application process. That means 75% of my jobs have been found through introductions and references provided by family and friends in my network. This does not even include the many short term side job opportunities I have gotten. Every one of those has been provided by connections within my network.
So you ask, “How do I network?”
The concept of networking is taught by corporations and university college classes, but they teach it as a hard skill. Get some business cards, carry them, find someone who you can hire or sell to, give them your business card, and ask them to meet. It is basically a sales pitch. It has a very low rate of return.
True and successful networking is a soft skill. It is always happening and it is ongoing.
If you are networking expecting and looking for immediate reciprocation for your efforts, then you are doomed to failure. As I’ve laid out in The Interconnectivity of All Beings, you cannot network with expectations of reciprocation.
People do network with the goal of creating business connections, leads, and opportunities, but if that intention is obvious in the act of networking, it will come across as desperate and annoying. You will fail to make valuable long-lasting connections.
For networking to work and to be an enjoyable process, you need to look at networking as making friends.
If you leave me a first impression with, “Here’s my card. I sell stuff. Buy my shit.” I wouldn’t even take your card home. You definitely didn’t do anything more than the hundreds of spam emails and mail I receive every day that just frustrate me and add additional work and stress to my already spread thin time.
If you lead with, “I couldn’t help but overhear that you are a writer. What do you like to write about?”…”That’s awesome. I’d love to check out your blog. Can I get your card? I’ll be sure to share the stuff that my network will gain value from. Here’s my card if you ever need to buy some shit.”
Didn’t the second example resonate as a high level connection being built? Wouldn’t that have led to a longer conversation and possibly even a friendship being forged? The second intro got the person talking about their self.
That’s the number one thing most people enjoy talking about. In that way the introduction added value.
The second introduction added additional value by offering to share the writing with their own network. This is a great segue. The people in the network of the people in your network are, in fact, your network. I know that’s a confusing sentence, but think about it.
The people in the network of the people in your network are, in fact, in your network.
Back to Yury. Yury knows of my desire to become a paid professional writer. Within Yury’s network he has a friend who owns a freelance writing company. Yury also knows that his friend always needs writers. Yury saw that it could be an obvious win/win. Yury provided us with an email introduction. The freelance writing company owner and I have since corresponded and continued the conversation without Yury. However, I would have never had the exposure without Yury’s generosity. He shared his network with me.
What’s next? There are two important things I need to do from this point to continue to keep my network strong and sustainable.
First, I need to thank Yury. Not just verbally, that’s obvious and implied. I need to reciprocate in some way by adding value for Yury. I need to remember the help Yury provided me and look for ways show it. It can be as simple as a hand written card or a gift. It could be a business lead or a tip that will help him in some way in the future. This doesn’t have to cost me much money or time, but it aids strengthening a bond that was already strong enough to add so much value to my own life. These are the bonds we need most.
Second, I cannot make Yury look bad or make him regret the introduction. This is summed up by the phrase,
“Don’t be a dick!”
If Yury vouched for me, then my behavior and actions are as much a reflection of him as they are of me. If I make a commitment, then I need to follow through on it and proceed with grace. The best case scenario is that I will get the writing job or I will establish a relationship with the company owner that will prove invaluable to my writing career going forward. If I am a dick, not only will I screw up the opportunity, but Yury will not put himself out there for me again.
So in summation, network partners, i.e. friends with benefits, both add value to each others’ lives and networks.
It is not a taking relationship, but a giving relationship.
A final hack I’d like to provide comes from Jordan Harbinger, the host of The Jordan Harbinger Show. Jordan’s show has been one of my go-to sources for self-development and improvement resources and information. I highly recommend checking out his content.
Aside from having everything scheduled out in his day to the minute details, Jordan has a daily habit of making a connection with two people in his network he hasn’t spoken to in a long time. His method is to scroll down his cell phone’s text list to the very bottom. That’s where he finds the people he hasn’t spoken to in the longest. He reaches out to them. He doesn’t recommend doing it through text due to the impersonal nature of text messaging. He recommends looking them up on Facebook or LinkedIn and finding something interesting they are doing, have done, or are talking about. Then he sends an email or a direct message about his thoughts or his connection to their content.
This does a number of things besides reestablishing a lost connection. It reinforces shared bonds with your lost acquaintance and it adds value to their day because it shows that the effort they are putting into their social media presence is being noticed. The best part is that it doesn’t take very much time and you feel really good about it afterwards.
Similar to Jordan, I schedule this into my day, and I add an additional component. I recognize that we all lead busy lives and our plates are very full. When I finish my message or email I add a “no reply necessary” sentence, so it takes the neediness and pressure off the other person to take time out to respond if they cannot. As of today, I have had a near 100% return rate. I’d consider that a testament to strong networking over the years.