The shabby-looking man had food stuck in the curly hairs of his beard that bounced as he spoke. Less than ten feet from the rickety picnic table on which we were perched, cars whizzed by on a busy road. As he gave the reasons why he wouldn’t be able to get into business with my friend and me, I began to giggle inside. “How did I get here?” I asked myself.
Building a networking business is an adventure in discovery. It will take you into places and situations you might never have imagined. You will meet people from all walks of life, and by that I mean all. You will become comfortable with crossing economic boundaries, class distinctions, racial divides, age barriers and generational gaps. We all tend to assume, uncritically, that pretty much everyone else lives the way we do. Launching yourself on the adventure that is networking will quickly change all that. You will come to realize the broad range and deep scope of the differences between people and their mindsets.
Conversely, however, you will also discover a common thread running through the lives of people from different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. You will begin to notice that when it comes to what truly matters—cherishing one’s family, valuing friendship, appreciating recognition, feeling passionate about causes, adhering to one’s principles—we all share much in common.
It is these discoveries that make our profession not only unique, but uniquely interesting and worthwhile. After all, life is with, for and about people. It is a challenge in harmony, service to others, acceptance, and yes, influence.
People can be difficult—sometimes, extremely difficult. But they can be and are one of the best parts of life. Networking is the great amplifier of relationships. It puts us in touch with others in ways not possible in any other endeavor.
In short, the networking profession brings the spice of life that is people to the fore of our living. And this is what makes it so special. Allow me to share several coping mechanisms designed to not only help you survive your journey, but get the most enjoyment and mileage out of it as well.
1. Treat each new relationship as an adventure. Become interested in the other person as an individual. Get to know him or her. Find out who they are. Not only is this entirely necessary for developing an ongoing business partnership, it can also be highly enjoyable and entertaining. You will learn things you never knew before, and gain exposure to aspects of life you didn’t even suspect you were missing!
2. Develop a third-party perspective on the events of your life. What I mean by this is to see things from a distance, as if you were watching the events in which you are participating as an outside observer, as a spectator views a play. This will engender impartiality, perspective and contrast. It will help you frame things properly and keep things in their proper balance. Again, it might enhance the entertainment value of what you are experiencing. In much the same way a good comedian sees the world from a remote corner, a good networker will do the same.
3. Record the most inspiring events and humorous moments in a journal. As time passes and you accomplish greater and greater levels of success, it may be easy to forget where you came from and what it took to get here. Recording these moments is not only healthy for the soul in the moment, it will also provide the material for future talks and frames of reference as you teach your craft and mentor others.
4. Recognize the gifts along your path. Understand that your time in the networking profession is a call to service. It provides a wonderful chance to use your talents in a way that blesses others. The more you see your profession as a calling and a means to help others, the easier your network will be to build and the greater the impact it will have. When you care, people know it.
5. Realize that each time you share your business opportunity, you are likely going to get one of three things in return: a new friend, a good story, or both! Don’t worry about what will happen as you go through the process of meeting people and building your network. Rather, enjoy it. Look for the stories that emerge and the relationships that weave together. If you are keen on this, the sheer quantity and quality of both will blow your mind.
6. Keep your emotional balance as you go through the paces. Sometimes things go smoothly, more often they don’t. A professional, however, goes through highs and lows with a positive attitude, a strong will, a solid fixation on the dreams of tomorrow, and a healthy perspective to keep it all in check. Maturity, patience, calmness and dignity in the face of both adversity and success are the mark of a true professional.
7. Finally, remember that you can never predict just what will happen. This contributes to the wonder of our profession. Some people, whom you think will be fantastic at your business, simply won’t see it. Others, whom you feel are a complete waste of your time, will become your biggest leaders and new best friends. You just never can tell.
As proof of this, the bearded man with half his lunch caught in his whiskers eventually did get involved in our business—ten years later! Unrecognizable from that first day, today he is a model professional and fully plugged in as a business builder. Seeing him dressed up and cheering the success of his team, I can’t help but wonder if he thinks to himself, “How did I get here?”
CHRIS BRADY is coauthor of the New York Times,
Business Week, USA Today and Money best-seller,
Launching a Leadership Revolution. Together with
Orrin Woodward, he leads a network marketing
organization of tens of thousands of people. Their
common goal is to raise the level of profession-
alism and leadership in network marketing.