As people have heard me say often, networking is not about schmoozing and handing out business cards. It’s about creating deep connections. It’s about making friends for life. In the business world, it’s about building loyal alliances where you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the people around you will be there to support you when you need it. One of the things that I’ve come to realize about networking is that my network is most willing to help when I am focused and serious about my objective. If I have a lukewarm commitment to accomplishing something, my network will be lukewarm in its efforts to help me do it. However, I’ve also discovered that when my desire is lackluster, my network can help me stir that desire until it reaches sufficient intensity to break through.
Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, says this about desire: “Those who would win in any undertaking must be willing to burn their ships and cut all sources of retreat. Only by so doing can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a burning desire to win, essential to success.”
In 2007, I thought I was following Hill’s instructions when I quit my steady-paying job in 2007. By cutting off my only line of retreat, I reasoned, I was guaranteed success. Instead, I burned up all of my money, wrecked my credit, and lost just about everything but the clothes on my back. Why? Because I didn’t understand that burning desire doesn’t come overnight. It requires tending, just like a field of crops. I was hoping to be a lucky jackpot winner. I wasn’t really committed to success; I was idly wishing for it. I built up a network rapidly, expecting that a frenzy of activity would surely bring results. It didn’t. It brought confused looks from a lot of people.
Over the past few years, I have identified a few key folks that I reach out to when I am considering making a significant change in direction or strategy. Recognizing that the tendency to make decisions based on momentary excitement is a perennial weakness of mine, I have learned that when something looks like a good idea, the first thing that I need to do is bounce it off of the individuals I know who will bring the outside perspective that I can’t provide for myself. They have talked me down from several ledges, but they’ve also given me the green light to move forward. For example, when I recently decided to get involved with BNI, several close friends who have known me for a few years affirmed that this sounded like a good strategic move for me.
What I’ve realized is that acting on emotional excitement rather than deep commitment will actually kill off my burning desire, just like setting fire to a field. It makes for a blaze of glory, but there’s nothing left afterward. You end up with what I call an “entrepreneurial hangover.” You’re laying in bed at noon on a Tuesday, thinking to yourself, “How could I have possibly thought that plan was going to work? But it really sounded like the perfect idea at the time!”
Desire that produces results burns slowly and steadily. Excitement is deadly. In moments of excitement, it is very easy to delude yourself. If you don’t have a network of people to reach out to for counsel, start writing a list of everyone you know. Sooner or later, you will think of the right people. Look for positive and upbeat people who have a track record of producing measurable results. I would also suggest that you reach out to people in different professions, just because they are not likely to think the same way you do. Different perspectives are extremely useful for uncovering hidden opportunities and threats.
If you make a practice of regularly reaching out and connecting to the people in your network—and really listening to what they tell you—you will start to notice a somewhat eerie effect overtaking you. You will begin to feel more motivated, more focused, and more determined to reach your goals. You will feel your willpower getting stronger. You will feel a greater spring in your step. You will become more willing to forgive yourself for mistakes. You will sleep better at night, and you will wake up more excited about the coming day. All of this will begin to take form when you realize and accept that you cannot cultivate burning desire under your own power, but that you can only awaken it by becoming a part of a greater whole.
Don’t bother trying to understand how or why it works. Just accept that it does, and start connecting. Experiment. Connect with as many people as possible, and the right ones will inevitably reveal themselves to you. When you start to deepen your relationships with the right people, a desire will be born inside you so powerful that you’ll feel as if you’ve been plugged into an electrical grid.
That’s what networking is all about.