I absolutely hate networking.
I literally hate the word and everything it stands for.
Most of us are pretty happy going through life meeting and getting to know people organically until some time in our late teens and early adulthood when we are given the message that if we want to be successful in life we need to be networking.
We are told to print business cards, perfect our elevator pitch, and learn how to communicate in ways that make others feel like we actually care about them. The whole thing is a racket.
Except for when it’s not.
All of us have heard stories of meeting someone who has changed a life, with many of us having had personal experiences ourselves. As a matter of fact, the self-made man is a myth and every single successful person I know has had multiple people who have believed in them, supported their growth, and introduced them to others who have made invaluable contributions to their life.
I personally believe that the most revolutionary thing we can do is introduce people to one another. Every single opportunity in my life has been the result of an introduction, and I know that I’ve changed lives by making meaningful introductions without an agenda or expecting anything in return.
This is not networking. This is connecting and there’s a world of difference between the two. It has everything to do with our mindset and being absolutely clear about where we are coming from rather than where we expect the introduction to take us to.
Here are five nuanced but powerful distinctions between networking and connecting:
- Networking is about me (and boy does it show!) but connecting is about the other.
- Networking has us in expectation and manipulation mode (not just unattractive but also often leads to disappointment) but connecting has us coming from curiosity — the antidote to self-centeredness.
- Networking is a game of numbers (how many business cards did I give away at the party, which is both silly and ineffective in today’s crowded spaces) but connecting is about making quality connections, even if only one person remembers your conversation.
- Networking keeps us in a selfish mindset, constantly taking our own temperature to see where we stand compared to others and if there’s a more “important” person in the room we should be talking to. But connecting keeps us in a generous mindset because we are always looking for ways we can help the person in front of us. Successful people know the truth that paying it forward is the most powerful way to create deep and life-changing connections.
- Networking has us hustling to show how much we know and how smart we are. But connecting shows the other who we are and how much we care. Nobody cares what you know until they feel seen and cared for.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am on the side of making quality connections. Given I’ve been at this for over four decades, my “network” is powerful and beyond valuable. I believe that a quality introduction is the greatest gift I have the power to give .
It’s easy to attribute our success in life to external factors like our family of birth, education, or connections. But in the long run, it’s what we do with our circumstances that separates the amateurs from the pros in the game of life.
Look around you and find someone you consider successful and learn everything you can about their life. You will find that it was not networking but rather cultivating meaningful connections that paved the path to their extraordinary achievements.
I met and deeply connected with Arianna Huffington in 2004 (although I was following her life story long before that time) and have learned firsthand the power of meaningful connections. I was fortunate to learn from a master in the art of creating impactful connections and it has served me well, even and especially at times when my external life circumstances were far from positive. I watched and learned as she, while struggling through so many life challenges of her own, showed up for others, contributed thoughts and advice, made introductions, and was always responsive.
It’s easy to look at Arianna and assume her success is due to her “network.” Look deeper. It’s not a network — it’s a community, and she built it one meaningful connection at a time.
I’ve learned from the best and I encourage you to find your Arianna and do the same.
You’ll thank me later.
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