How to Network with Dream Connections - Rule #3
The Scout: Keep Your Ear to the Ground
You know what's much easier than looking out for your own interests?
That's right. Looking out for someone else's interests instead.
It's the most counterintuitive thing in the world. The best way to look out
for "Number One" is to trust that God will provide someone to look out for
you, while you look out for one of His other children.
How, you ask? It's funny how much is right underneath our noses when
we're willing to take a look. It ought to be obvious that people are itching
to tell the world what they need. They're restrained by social etiquette and
common knowledge that you can't just blurt out, "I need XYZ."
A Scouting Story
Many of you know about my relationship with Aaron Walker, my mentor. What
isn't quite as obvious is how he chose me as a content writer for his team, and
the six months of work in the shadows I did to keep showing up in front of him with
a giving hand - usually holding an introduction to someone he wanted to know.
I won't go into excessive detail, other than to say that I never once asked Aaron for
anything in return. In fact, I was so committed to unilateral generosity that he had to
insist that I let him do something for me in return. In the six months that passed
connecting him to other podcast hosts, personal friends and business connections.
Be Careful Who You Do This For
Aaron was the right person at the right time. I think it's important to add context to
this story, because otherwise it sounds like you achieve success by simply "being
kind until people ask 'why?'" That's a huge over-simplification, and ignores all the
timing, chemistry and circumstances that backed me into the corner of giving away
everything I had, because nobody wanted to spend money with me.
In some content I recently wrote for a client, I mention how silly it is for "gurus" and
"experts" to tell entrepreneurs, "Just imitate what successful people do, and you too
will be successful." It's absolutely true that imitating successful people's habits will
result in personal growth and preparation. But you will not imitate their success.
Were you to precisely follow Muhammad Ali's training, diet and fitness
regimen, you still would not face or defeat all the opponents he fought, with the
same vigor and personal character with which he fought them. There are too
many variables in other people's success for it to be transfusible.
If you're going to be a scout and Keep Your Ear to the Ground, be prepared to
become selective about who you scout for. I discovered this through trial and
error, but you don't have to. You can take time before you make an investment in
someone to ask, "Should I assume this person will reciprocate, just because they
can?" (Believe me, I tried this on several people. Character matters when you're
building relationships with people, including when they're influential.)
The other side of the coin is that you should not avoid being generous to people
because they aren't influential, or even because they're not likely to reciprocate. It's
hard to know what's in a person's heart until they act. While I regret trying this with
some other people who didn't truly appreciate me, I don't hold grudges against them.
Just prepare your heart for the fact that people - including me - don't always think
or notice every time you do something. If you're still motivated by extrinsic
rewards like reciprocity or public exaltation, you'll end up disappointed. This has to
be a lifestyle you live, whether other people appreciate it or not.
A Gift That Keeps on Receiving
To this day, Aaron and I have never stood in the same room or shaken hands. But
at a critical juncture in my life, he's become not only a client, but a father and mentor
to me through the Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind. He's introduced me to so many
people, many of whom became clients or referred others who hired me to write.
I'm excited to report that becoming part of his team and the mastermind only
led to more of the same kind of introductions. The details aren't important - but I've
had a hand in getting him booked on numerous podcasts and shows, new clients
and we've worked on some exciting revenue-generating projects together.
Like several of my clients and terrific people in my network, Aaron is a gift who
keeps on receiving - because if you want to network with dream connections,
you learn to follow Rule #3: Keep Your Ear to the Ground.