“If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”Henry Ford (1863-1947)
Before I get into this, I just want to mention that there’s so much information on networking out there and I could write volumes of books on this topic, but this post will just be a few of the things I keep in mind when I’m networking.
What is networking?
Our network is who we are connected to and networking is building access to connect with people. Some people say success is about knowing the right people (and while that is true) it’s also about being accepted and liked by the right people.
Everyone’s heard the saying “you are the sum of the 5 people you hang around with the most” and for a lot of people this is not a reassuring statement. If we want to get to a different place, be a different kind of person, be someone who lives their life by design, then we need to be able to grow our network.
There are a ton of books out there on networking, but one that is worth mentioning is the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I highly recommend reading this book if you want solid and practical knowledge of networking. When I first read it I thought it was terribly self-explanatory, but reading the book is worthwhile because the “obviously simple” claims he made are backed up by science and research. Plus, it really is beneficial to write down seemingly obvious things, most of the world’s greatest wisdom is cultivated through people writing down what is obvious.
The TL;DR is don’t be a jerk, but I’ll go over a few of those ideas in this post and the next.
When we’re networking, it’s easy to feel nervous or intimidated, especially if we want to level up our network. It’s tough to put ourselves out there in hopes of being accepted. It’s scary to approach people with more money, education, and power than us, but that’s when I find it useful to keep The Cosmic Perspective in mind. I originally heard about this idea from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Masterclass on scientific thinking and communication, but I’ve also heard about it from reading about astronauts too. The idea is that we are made of the same elements as the giant planets and stars.
We are special, not because we are unique, but because we are the same.
Some astronauts say that when they see Earth from space for the first time, they have a realization that they belong in this universe just as much as the planets, the sun, and everything else that’s here. That is the cosmic perspective — seeing ourselves as beings that belong here, just like all the other beings in the cosmos. Seeing things from this perspective can give us the confidence to talk to anyone on this planet because they are just like us. The things that intimidate us are illusions and likely a result of thinking too small.
We belong here just as much as the planets and stars do, and in that realization, we can find confidence and peace in ourselves.
Attitude: How You Play The Game
“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it matters how you play the game.”Jordan Peterson (1962 – )
Let’s say we’re part of a soccer team and we have to play a game against another team. Let’s say that you’re way better than your other teammates and you could single-handedly beat the other team without much help. If we were playing just one game of soccer, that would be a winning strategy.
But if we’re playing a tournament of games, then we’ll have to change how we play. We’ll probably want to pass the ball and make sure that our team members are focused because we’ll need them to move on in the tournament. We’ll want to act in a way that ensures our teammates like us and have our backs.
How we play games changes if we have to play a tournament of games.
Our life is like the ultimate tournament of tournaments of games and the best way to play games of this nature is to play to win the tournament, not the game. The idea is to play so you can continue to advance, and sometimes that may look like losing a game, but other times it usually means acting fair and kind.
Networking is the game of games. You want to play in a way that gets you invited to play more. The most successful kids are not the ones who win every game, but are the ones who are invited to play the most games.
We’ve all heard the phrase winning isn’t everything, but when it comes to networking, it is. We just need to redefine what winning is for networking purposes. In networking, the person who is most invited to “play” wins. Play in the adult world can mean a plethora of different things ranging from, but not limited to, business, romance, platonic, or political relationships.
When I’m making new connections, I try to give value and demonstrate appreciation. People love useful people and love being appreciated even more! But I do this more importantly because it can trigger reciprocity. If I’m useful and appreciative of them, then they will want to be of me.
It’s all about getting to be invited to play more.
Getting the last word in, proving a point, or satiating a selfish desire is never worth not being invited to play.
Act in a way that makes people want to connect with you more. I’ve found that being compassionate, considerate, and competent will usually get you through the door. However, there is something else to keep in mind.
Playing Fair is a Biological Phenomenon
Part of being invited to play often is playing fair when we are invited to play. There are a few reasons for this — so people will enjoy playing with us, but also so they know that we’re a predictable playmate. People love predictable, especially when we’re thinking about the future.
But what is playing fair?
In order to answer this question, we have to look to Jaak Panksepp and his revolutionary experiment regarding fair play in rats.
Panksepp set up an experiment where he had two rats to play with each other, one rat was about 10% bigger than the other rat. Naturally, as we see with children, the bigger rat wins time and time again.
But here’s where it gets interesting, when the rats want to play again the smaller rat has to ask the big rat for permission to play. If the bigger rat says yes, then they play again. But if the smaller rat loses more than 66% of the time (roughly), then it won’t want to play anymore. The fascinating part is the bigger rat knows this and will let the smaller rat win enough to keep it in the game.
This weird little experiment shows that there is a biological basis for playing fair. It’s not like the rats told each other their feelings. This experiment demonstrates that there are neurons that specifically track if we’re playing a fair game.
People are the same way, sometimes they need to win. They need to feel like they’re playing a game they can win. This is how we “play fair” with networking – sometimes you let the smaller rat win, whatever it takes to get invited to play again. Even if that means losing every once in a while.
The networking game is more of a series of games, and as we know, when we’re thinking of multiple iterations in the future, our strategy has to change. If we were only playing games once, then lying and cheating would probably be the best winning strategy. But when we have to win a series, we have to keep in mind that we have to be a good sport and that might mean losing this game for the sake of the connection. With this, I don’t mean obviously throw the game. We have to be a formidable opponent otherwise it’s no fun.
Networking is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a war, not a battle. Look towards the long term and act accordingly.
We can’t talk about networking without talking about reputation. Reputation is different things to different people, but I believe that understanding multiple perspectives of reputation will give us comprehensive enough knowledge to integrate this idea properly into our behavior.
I’ll start with a modern and fairly simple explanation for reputation from renowned and successful real estate investor, Brandon Turner. In the world of real estate investing, the strength of your network is directly proportional to success.
“[Reputation] is built through character (doing what you say you’re going to do), experience (showing proof of what you’ve done), knowledge (do you know what you’re doing?), and even who you are associating with (you can borrow other’s credibility if they are part of your deal. Someone might not trust you yet, but maybe you can bring in a more-established partner who would have their trust?).”Brandon Turner (The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down)
Turner’s take on reputation is aligned with what most modern people associate reputation with and is worth knowing. These four aspects (character, experience, knowledge, & associates) are what are going to be judged when we’re out interacting with people. Intentionality in each of these areas will inevitably upgrade our network.
Another perspective that’s worth knowing is Arthur Schopenhauer’s. His take on reputation is fresh and carries a warning about what a reputation can do to our personal experience of life.
“By a peculiar weakness of human nature, people generally think too much about the opinion which others form of them; although the slightest reflection will show that this opinion, whatever it may be, is not in itself essential to happiness. Therefore it is hard to understand why everybody feels so very pleased when he sees that other people have a good opinion of him, or say anything flattering to his vanity.”Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
He regards carrying weight in the opinion of others as a weakness and proposes that what goes on in other people’s heads, or a demonstration of their thoughts, is not essential to our happiness.
“Therefore it is advisable, from our point of view, to set limits to this weakness, and duly to consider and rightly to estimate the relative value of advantages, and thus temper, as far as possible, this great susceptibility to other people’s opinion, whether the opinion be one flattering to our vanity, or whether it causes us pain; for in either case it is the same feeling which is touched. Otherwise, a man is the slave of what other people are pleased to think,—and how little it requires to disconcert or soothe the mind that is greedy of praise”Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
Artie says we should see what happens in other people’s minds with indifference, a stoic perspective which I can get behind. Especially because if we don’t, then we become a slave to other people’s poorly informed opinions.
“to lay great value upon what other people say is to pay them too much honor.”Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
Artie is known as the Great Pessimist, but I have to agree with this too. What other people think is usually of very little value to us. Obviously, there are exceptions, but these opinions should never rob us of the ability to act or think independently.
But now this poses the question: if we don’t place value in what other people think, then how are we supposed to network effectively?
“Let me remark that people in the highest positions in life, with all their brilliance, pomp, display, magnificence and general show, may well say:—Our happiness lies entirely outside us; for it exists only in the heads of others.”Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
When it comes to networking, reputation can bring you the highest positions in life, but it can come at a cost of our peace of mind.
Build a reputation, but don’t identify with it.
It’s a tricky balance, but one that needs to be gotten right otherwise we may lose our sense of self in the nonsense of others.
The last thing I want to mention about reputation is that the last impression means the most.
“The last impression is the lasting impression.”Chris Voss (Teaches The Art of Negotiation)
I got this from Chriss Voss. It’s not about how they feel about us at first, it’s mostly about what we leave them with. Leave them feeling good and happy if possible.
Don’t worry about starting off on the wrong foot, just make sure we finish on the right foot.
Reputations are something that we are continuously building. Every day we make choices that influence our reputations, even choices of omission impact our reputations. But we also need to keep in mind that reputations are for other people and not for us. Our relationship with ourselves is different from our relationship with other people.