« Using "Follow the energy" to refine your personal development experiments | Main | On the power of saying "Thank you" »

A geek "gets" networking: The strange magic of connecting with others

I've previously mentioned that I'm training myself to be a personal productivity consultant, having become seriously inspired after applying David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology to my life [2]. As an autodidact [3] (because there's no M.S. in Personal Productivity), I'm having to define the field of study for myself. Surprisingly, in addition to the expected subjects (time management, motivation, creativity, etc), my inquiry has expanded quickly to include broader topics like work/career, wealth/money, and personal growth and development. (Thanks again to Steve Pavlina for the great starter list.) And the queen of them all? Networking.

I've written about networking before [4], but after having started Keith Ferrazzi's excellent book Never eat alone: and other secrets to success, one relationship at a time (with Tahl Raz, and found via Ian Ybarra's blog), I've realized that it may be the most important thing I take away from my exploration of GTD, possibly eclipsing the study itself.

Why? Because I'm walking into an unknown area [5], and I know I absolutely must stay open to unexpected opportunities, especially ones that I literally can't imagine. My hope is that, by meeting others, being generous to them, and listening, I'll gain insight into (and help with) defining my path, rather than simply following possibly limited ones I dream up myself. (I'd say more, but Ferrazzi and Raz do it so wonderfully [6].)

Big change! I've discovered a world that, as a programmer, I had no clue existed. I've been living in a 20 year technical cocoon, starting with my first job with NASA, in which I've focused solely on my immediate social environment - my fellow workers, my boss, etc. This has been possible due to the focused nature of the work, and my willingness to be happy with that (frankly) impoverished level of connection with people. However, it is definitely time to change.

How to go about this? A combination of learning and goal setting. First, I'll apply concepts from Never eat alone and How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less by Nicholas Boothman (it's a great little book [7]).

Second, I've decided to take a page from Danny Wallace's book Yes Man and try an experiment - for the next year my goal is to meet three new people every week, and connect with them as significantly as possible. It will take work, and will be a challenge (I've already had to call someone back because I was "all business" the first time around), but it should be a wild ride.

Has anyone else had a networking "aha?" Regardless of whether you have or haven't, and in the spirit of the experiment, I'd love to talk with you - just send me an email. Cheers!


Reader Comments (4)

Yep. I was a programmer working for The Man for several years and, in the past six months, I have been a partner and Technical Director in a small company. I started exploring the professional aspects of my job and I started seriously using LinkedIn.com. For some people I have met with, I honestly don't know if we can help each other. So I start off with a brief history of my company and an overview of our current projects and take it from there. I have also been kicking around the idea of starting a local technical consortium (since no user groups really exist in my area). I recently picked up "The Virtual Handshake" which was co-written by Scott Allen, David's brother, and it is very good so far.

Paul - http://www.screwtheman.com

January 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks a bunch for the pointers, Paul. I like your consortium idea, and "The virtual handshake" is now sitting on my desk - it's up next. I'm still learning how to use LinkedIn, and how to help others (of course). I appreciate your point about different levels of connection/help - it's really a matter of trying, I think. You never know when or how one will work out.

January 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Two more ideas for networking opportunities: [ conversation cafes | http://www.conversationcafe.org/ ] (they don't have any in MA ... but it's [procedurally] easy to start one ... just have to add gumption :-)) and [ meetups | http://www.meetup.com/ ]. I think I already mentioned Fast Company's [ Company of Friends | http://www.fastcompany.com/cof ] in an earlier comment on another post; the have local chapters as well.

February 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe McCarthy

> I haven't found LinkedIn all that helpful, except via the actual
> invitations themselves, which often spark an email exchange with
> long-lost friends and former associates.

Thanks, Joe. I've yet to (audaciously) ask for an invitation...

> What I have found useful is reading others' blogs and posting
> comments ... as a way of reaching out to people in a more meaningful
> way than ... a service like LinkedIn.

Absolutely! I've found that making connections with readers and other bloggers to be fulfilling and entertaining. A real surprise for me, as a newbie blogger myself.

> Two books I would recommend for networking are How Full Is Your
> Bucket? and Hello, My Name is Scott, by Scott Ginsberg.

Thanks, Joe. I liked the first (and your writeup, including identifying the tension between independence and interdependence), and I'll be ordering the second.

> I haven't read the book on how to make people like you, but I have
> an immediate and strong aversion to its title.

I had a similar reaction (I talk more about the book [ here | http://www.matthewcornell.org/blog/2005/12/review-of-how-to-make-people-like-you.html ], where I say The title is somewhat misleading and provocative).

> I think that meeting people with the general goal of what you're
> going to get from them is a setup for failure and disappointment,

Absolutely! The book's actually got a positive perspective on this.

> Er, and if I've misinterpreted the theme of the book, well, then,
> "never mind" :-).


February 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.