We live in a scared, angry, and confused world right now. There are a lot of business owners struggling to figure out how to sell their products. There are unemployed people struggling to find work. The struggle is almost always unnecessary; there are millions of people who simply haven’t recognized the nature of the real problem. We have a tendency to look for answers and solutions, when in fact, what we need is a connection.
A connection is not a sales lead, a business card, or a phone number. A connection is not a Twitter follower. A connection is not an opt-in to an e-mail distribution list. A connection is heart-to-heart. You know you’ve made a connection when somebody says, “I’m listening,” “I’ve got your back,” “I believe in your vision,” “I care,” or “Is there any way I can help?”
I remember one particularly dark evening in 2009. I was in complete distress. My finances were a disaster. I had no idea what I was going to do. I remember talking to a close friend who lived in Atlanta. She asked me what was going on. I quietly told her that I was scared to death, and I started crying. She didn’t say anything for that moment, but it was a deep and meaningful kind of silence. I don’t remember what was said after that or how the conversation went. But my friend revealed herself to be a true friend. She didn’t have the solution to my problems, but she empathized with me so fully and so completely that I no longer felt like I was alone. In that moment, I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders.
There have been other times when my true friends have helped me indirectly in this same way. I can’t explain exactly how it works, but when I don’t feel alone with my problems, it’s like my personal power comes back on after a blackout. I stop feeling sorry for myself and start thinking clearly again. I stop thinking about doom and gloom, and I start seeing clear, practical action steps. I stop sinking into the quicksand and I start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
In 2007, when I started to get out from behind the computer and connect with people, I was able to see new meaning and purpose for my life. It was these simple connections that motivated me to change my eating habits, lose 40 pounds, and stop smoking. I didn’t find new answers or solutions. I just discovered a new reason to make use of the answers I already knew.
It’s unfortunate that people go to business networking groups and never move past the superficial cocktail-party shallowness of “what do you do?” conversations. Frankly, I’d be happy if no one ever asked me “what do you do” again. My closest friends don’t need to ask me for a business card, because they already have my number in their phones and I already have theirs. In my opinion, the purpose of any networking activity—or any group, for that matter—is to create deep connections and drive those connections deeper.
Deep connections save lives, restore marriages, build trust, and fulfill dreams. Those are the kinds of connections we all need more of. The next time you find yourself wondering how to solve a problem, consider what would happen if, instead, you focused your energy on deepening your connections. I promise you that if you deepen your connections, the answer will present itself. It will be a better answer than you ever would have come up with on your own.