A friend of mine is quitting her job to go teach in Rwanda. I wished her well, and was very happy for her, but then immediately, I had a question: do you have a network in place? This question, it turns out, is quite a core piece of what Julien and I think matters to the way business is done these days (and honestly, the way life is done). And it’s a bit evolutionary, so let’s talk a moment more about it.
Our Old Networks
In the old days, our network was a little easier to understand: relatives, neighbors, coworkers, schoolmates. It was weighted heavily on genetics, geography, and our job. It made a lot of sense. The downside was that, if a region got hit hard by lack of work, then we were all in the same boat. The downside was, everyone knew us for what we were, so they had trouble seeing us for what we wanted to become. The downside was, sometimes, we wanted to shift radically, and we didn’t have a sense of what to do.
Keith Ferrazzi wrote the classic book, Never Eat Alone, back before we had little digital networks in our pockets at all times. He wrote it for the people who hadn’t yet found the new networks.
Our New Networks
We have new tools, new opportunities, new ways of gathering people to us. With tools like Facebook, we can connect with people from our past and in related fields. With tools like Twitter, we can connect with anyone in the world. Our new networks are based more about thinking, mindsets, ideals, passions, and future visions. We can be who we want to be, or who we’re growing into being. Our past is there, but it’s not often the focal point. It’s our ideas and our ideals that drive things forward.
ABN: Always Be Networking
Danger: I don’t mean “always be networking” in the smarmy, business card ninja way. I mean it in the “let’s connect with wonderful, thoughtful people all over the world” kind of way.
In my network are people from every continent (though not as many in Africa). In my network are many walks of life, from preachers to millionaires, from teachers to artists to real estate types. They range in age from the early teens up into the 70s and 80s.
That’s on purpose. I love the diversity. I love being able to reach out and help others connect because of the larger and larger web I’m weaving. A healthy, thriving network is a beautiful thing. It’s also why I encourage people to connect with me on LinkedIn (my email: linkedin @ chrisbrogan . com). I love the connections because I use them to be as helpful as possible.
Feed the Network
There’s no value in your contact list if you don’t reach out to them when you can, and if you can’t offer them value long before you have a request of your own. It goes that way. You have to try and offer what you have. Then, when the time comes, and not in a “quid pro quo” kind of way, there will be some sense that a relationship existed long before you needed it. “Be there before the sale,” Julien and I called it in Trust Agents.
Feed your network often. Connect with them. Touch them in whatever ways you can.
Never Jump Without a Network
So many people are trying to reach escape velocity. They’ve had enough of their job, or they’re aching to try something new. They want to leap out into the nothingness.
But to me, there are two things you need before you jump: money and a network. Of the two, I think the network is more important. With a network, you might have people who’ll cover some of your needs until the money flows in. A lot of people were kind to me along the way, and so I do my best to be kind to others who are on their path. So to me, the network might be more important, and yet, you’ll need both.
Never jump into the nothingness without a network. You can always benefit from having contacts in other places, with other disciplines, and who offer something new to the story.
How are you nurturing your network? How diverse do you keep it? Do you think beyond your current job role and your current needs, or is your network a homogenous reflection of you?
I’m glad to know you. You’re my network. You make me feel stronger every day.
Photo credit faster panda kill kill