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Networking surprises - Some recent unexpected (but successful) outcomes

In her post Find yourself a good mentor, Pamela Stewart suggests finding a mentor in your field of interest, someone who has a thriving, successful business. She goes on to say:
See if they are willing to spend some time with you so that you can find out what it really takes to grow a successful business. [...] For the most part, people love to talk about themselves, so don't be shy to ask someone you admire for a bit of their time. Hopefully you can return the favor when you become successful and famous!
Since I'm training myself to be a personal productivity coach, I appreciated her advice.

This brought up a surprising networking experience I recently had. I asked Pamela if she'd had any experiences in which the person you introduce yourself to reacts in a competitive way. She responded:
Yes Matthew that has happened to me! I tried to get in touch with a guy once about a project I was interested in co-sponsoring. I know I could have helped him as much as he could me, but he never responded after many attempts. I have learned that a fundamental characteristic of a good mentor is not just subject matter expertise, but a real, genuine desire to nurture and grow others. For the most part, I find people to be very open and generous.
I won't go into detail, but two recent experiences surprised me, and made me realize that there are many directions networking with someone can go. In one case I talked with an established professional organizer in the area, who started the call with the very emotional speech "What makes you think I'd be willing to talk to you?" The outcome? No I didn't (politely) hang up (I did seriously consider it). Instead I stayed with her, asking if there was a way we could talk that wouldn't be threatening. We ended up talking for well over an hour, and discovered mutual friends and compatible ideas.

In the other case I met a woman who's also getting into time management training, and wanted me to teach her GTD. (You could almost hear the tables turning.) I would have done it, but I'm booked up now. However, I just discovered that she's teaching a class on stress and time management at a local college. Competitors? Who knows, but I do want to keep in touch because we might be able to help each other in the future. We're both learning!

What I've taken away from this is that I need to continue staying open to outcomes when networking, and more generally when exploring this new field. I know I'll be making mistakes (I like Curt Rosengren's article The genius of mistakes), but I plan on sticking it out.

This also makes me deeply grateful for the great networking experiences I have had - people have been so generous with their time, sharing their wisdom, and being available to me. I only hope I can give something back in return...

Finally, I want to finish with some great quotes from the comments section of Ramit Sethi's Why is networking a dirty word?, in which he gave away copies of Never Eat Alone for the best and worst networking experiences. My favorites:
  • The best part about this opportunity was not the job, but more networking, and mentoring. Every time I fixed a partner's computer, they taught me a lesson: what to major in, where to go to school, where to work, what to learn, how to communicate.
  • [...]the bigger lesson I took from this is a lot of successful networking comes from just being open and willing to share resources, and hook people up when the opportunity arises.
  • Especially for a young person, mentorship is an absolute must. Every single interaction [...] has been accompanied by lessons in life. Stuff that no textbook or school will teach you. [...] Well established business men/scientists are keen to help you out [...] and let you know if you are making the same mistakes as they did.
  • [...] try to focus on the joy of meeting interesting people with interesting stories as being your reward. This reward should be enough for you to be excited about getting contact information and keeping in touch with people. If you happen to profit economically later on, consider it a bonus and nothing more.
  • Moral? Networking is all the time, not just when you think you should turn it on.
Great stuff!

Reader Comments (4)

It's the old Covey concept of folks who have a "scarcity mentality" versus folks with an "abundance mentality." The scarcity mentality sees a finite number of apple trees and if you pick MY apples, I will have less to eat. But of course, the apples rot before they can all be eaten. The abundance mentality says, "there are plenty of apple trees: want to share and help out? There's plenty to go around."

I work hard at the abundance mentality. To me, the more hands in the mix the better. The bedrock of my plans for 2006 is getting people together to collaborate on ways to improve personal development. If some folks want to use the ideas we come up with together for profit, swell. I feel like the more people collaborating and adding value to the mix, the more value we'll have to share amongst the group.

It's all about incentives. The examples you gave were seeing an incentive to keep you out of their field. Silly, really. Do they think helping you will diminish their share of the market? Pity.

Come on in. The water's fine, and there are plenty of apples.

December 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Wow - that's really helpful, Chris. First, because it's the gist of what I was trying to say, and second because I've heard the "scarcity mentality" concept before, but didn't know its origins. I have GOT to try to read Covey again.

As usual, this shows my readers "know more than I do," to paraphrase Dan Gillmor from [ We the Media | http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0596007337/002-5618779-6170439?v=glance&n=283155 ].

Thanks, Chris.

December 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

I totally agree with chris, I read Covey a long time ago and I think a lot of it stuck.
I try to always look at a situation and try to decide if it is a zero sum game or not and then try to put myself in non zero sum situations if at all possible.

For some reason I have always seen life as a non-zero sum game, and thus I had difficulty understanding people with the other perspective.

But once I understood that some people see everything through zero sum goggles it helped me to understand (if not agree with) their actions. I think I remember that Covey was big on understanding others and this was a big step for me.


From Wikipedia:
"Non-zero-sum situations are an important part of economic activity due to production, marginal utility and value-subjectivity. Most economic situations are non-zero-sum, since valuable goods and services can be created, destroyed, or badly allocated, and any of these will create a net gain or loss. One strategy for non-zero-sum games is tit for tat.

If a farmer succeeds in raising a bumper crop, he will benefit by being able to sell more food and make more money. The consumers he serves benefit as well, because there is more food to go around, so the price per unit of food will be lower. Other farmers who have not had such a good crop might suffer somewhat due to these lower prices, but this cost to other farmers may very well be less than the benefits enjoyed by everyone else, such that overall the bumper crop has created a net benefit. The same argument applies to other types of productive activity.

Trade is a non-zero-sum activity because all parties to a voluntary transaction believe that they will be better off after the trade than before, otherwise they would not participate. It is possible that they are mistaken in this belief, but experience suggests that people are more often than not able to judge correctly when a transaction would leave them better off, and thus persist in trading throughout their lives. It is not always the case that every participant will benefit equally. However, a trade is still a non-zero-sum situation whenever the result is a net gain, regardless of how evenly or unevenly that gain is distributed."

December 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Thanks a bunch, Tom. That really helps. I've ordered 7 habits and FTF.

December 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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