Networking (part 2): Sharing Your Passion

A while back, I wrote a post about networking and the importance of connecting on a real human level, not just a “so where do you work” level. After continuing to go to more networking events, I’ve realized something else that is key to successfully connecting with people: sharing your passion. To be more specific, if there’s something you want, share that with everyone you meet.

A good example of this: When I was in college, I played in a band that got some attention in the Dallas/Ft. Worth music scene (yes, I’m originally from Texas…shh!). Lance, a good friend of ours who was largely responsible for getting that band together, decided from the outset to be our booking agent and band manager. When he was a teenager, he started a production company called Spune Productions with the goal of bringing concerts to small West Texas towns where the kids wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see live music.

I noticed that every single person we met who was in the music scene – and even a lot of people who weren’t – he’d tell them about Spune and about his passion to bring great music and well-known bands to the small town where our college was. But he wasn’t just sharing his goal…he was sharing his heart, his aspirations. At the time, I saw that is a bit self-centered. But looking back, I see that he was bringing other people into his vision in a way that got them excited, in a way that made them want to join in the mission and help in whatever way they could.

Because of his networking savvy, within a year my band that he was managing had played shows with a number of really well-known indie bands at the time and even played with the Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot. Lance moved to Dallas after graduation and several years later was named Promoter of the Year there. Since then he’s also been named “Best Booking Agent” and “Best Record Label” by local press. To say the least, he’s having continued success with his business and is doing what he always wanted to do.

He knew what he wanted to achieve, and he told almost everyone he met about it. And it worked. I want to adopt this approach in telling people about my passion to help businesses and organizations communicate effectively and authentically through social media and grow thriving online communities that lead not only to more business but also improve the lives of their customers. I want to tell them how their company (whether for-profit or nonprofit) can have a mission that can make the world a better place. And it all starts with a handshake and “Hi, my name is Matthew.”

Try and Fail and Try Again

If you’re a person who lives a life worth living, then you take risks. You work your butt off and you hone your game, and when a long shot presents itself – you take it. But you don’t always make it. Because it wouldn’t be a long shot if you did.

But here’s the deal. If you do it right, people respect that. They respect your hard work and your creativity. And sometimes, that opens a door to the place where you are supposed to be instead. Because it takes failing to succeed. Just look at the false starts and failures of Abraham Lincoln or R.H. Macy or Michael Jordan.

A guy once told me on the topic of asking girls out, “Every no you get is one no closer to a yes.” While that may not be statistically verifiable, it makes a good point: you have to keep trying.

I believe I’m one of those people who lives a life worth living. I will fail sometimes. I will succeed sometimes. But I’ll keep taking risks. Because where’s the excitement in putting everything on the line for something better if you already know what outcome will be?

Networking

I understand why people call it that, but I don’t like how impersonal that term is. Yes, when I go to networking events, I’ll talk to you for a few minutes about what you do, where you work, etc. But I’m also the guy who wants to actually get to know a little more about you. Where are you from originally? What brought you to Denver? What kind of music are you into? Because I know that I don’t remember people I meet for their job title. I remember people for who they are, what they’re passionate about, how they see the world.

Yes, the point is to make a “professional connection,” but I think that making a personal connection with someone is 1) not only more enjoyable, but 2) will be far more likely to turn into a connection that might help get you a job one day, or a new client, or freelance work. It took me a few of these types of events to get over my own self-consciousness, but now I love going to networking events. Not because I’m so eager to meet someone who can help my career but because I’m eager to meet people.

Everyone you meet has their own interesting story or fascinating things about them. It just takes getting past the networking small talk to find it.

Panic in the Board Room

I decided to do Flashback Friday today with something  from almost a year ago. I wrote this shortly after I’d started my current job. Oh, the difference a year makes.

I’m in the third week at my new job, and this morning I found myself sitting in a meeting I didn’t know what was about and, even more so, had no clue why I needed to be there. It was like one of those dreams where all of a sudden you’re standing in front of an audience expected to give a speech, and you have no idea where you are or what you’re supposed to say. I can’t say I’ve ever had that feeling before in real life (well, except for a few times in grad school seminars). After a few minutes of silent panic, I realized I could probably just keep my mouth shut and ride it out, which I did. By the end of the meeting, it all made sense why I was there, and, luckily, I had refrained from getting a wide-eyed look of terror on my face or from getting up and running out of the room  posthaste.

On Disruption

A recent article by Erika Napoletano (who I think is one of the best writers in Denver, by the way) tackles a subject that I’ve been trying to implement for a while: disruption. To disrupt means to do something that scares you, whether presenting a new idea or taking on a new challenge. In this context, I take it to mean disrupting my own comfortable rhythm of the day-to-day and taking a real risk. I can’t even iterate how important this has become in helping me feel alive. Whether speaking up with a radical idea in a meeting with lots of folks way higher up the ladder than you or jumping out of an airplane, you’ve got to go for it. The rewards can be so much more than you expected.

What this recently looked like in my personal (well, semi-professional) life was playing my first show with a new band. These guys are all top-notch musicians who can hang with the best of the best professional musicians out there. I didn’t consider myself anywhere near the level of musicianship as them, and the thought of taking the stage with them sort of terrified me. But I decided I’d never know quite what I was capable of unless I pushed to find out. Well, we played that first show, and guess what? Turns out I can hold my own. Did I practice the songs almost every day leading up to the show? Yes. Did 98% of me think I wouldn’t be able to pull it off? Yes. But I didn’t listen to that. I listened to that two percent that told me I could do it. Taking the risk and achieving what I set out to in this case has changed my own perception of myself as a musician…and that is extending into my life in general. I don’t plan on ever losing the humility and gratitude I have, but I do plan to continue to nurture my growing confidence that I can achieve things much greater than I previously thought I could.

(that’s me on the far right)

Optimum Trajectory

I just finished reading a book by hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. One thing in the book that really stood out to me was when he writes about those initial moments when you start to pursue your dream. He says:

Whether you take that baby step yourself, or just allow yourself to be swept up, you’ll get a real sense of satisfaction and freedom the first day you start pursuing your dream…During that very first day you’ll get an ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this’ feeling. There will be an excitement that had been missing from your life. And when you lie in the bed that first night, that excitement will be replaced by a sense of relief. You will feel incredibly relieved in having used the energy God gave you.

After I quit my job teaching college, I didn’t have another job lined up, and I didn’t even know if any businesses would want to hire a guy with too much education and not much business experience. I sent off application after application and got no responses. After a couple months, I began to get really discouraged and had no idea what I was going to do if I didn’t get a job and start making money soon. The idea of going back to academia occurred to me, but because that had been such a destructive rut I was stuck in for so long, I decided that I’d rather be evicted from my apartment than go back to living a life I hated.

Another month went by, and I just kept on sending out resume after resume then improving my resume and turning it into a creative piece. I called on all my friends to see who they were friends with, then I got in touch with those people and worked to make a connection with them and plant seeds that might turn into an opportunity for me down the road (though I was hoping it’d be sooner than later). I finally got some responses from a few people in the advertising industry – an ad agency exec and a couple creative directors. They liked my stuff but they weren’t hiring. Then I got contacted by a CEO of a startup who was impressed with my writing – my writing on this blog, actually. The interview was going great but then he explained some major elements of the position that I’d not known about beforehand. I knew in my heart that this wasn’t the job for me, and I told the CEO and VP—after an hour of interviewing—that I was sorry, I wasn’t the man for the job.

To make a long story short, about a week later I read a job description in an job email list a friend had forwarded me, and I knew immediately that was my job. I wasn’t being arrogant or overconfident. For some reason, I just knew that was the job I was going to get. Out of a field of 65 and after five interviews, I got the job. And I started to have the feeling “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

This weekend, I gave the book proposal I’ve been working on for several months to a friend of mine who is the founder of the Publishing Institute at DU and is very well connected in the publishing industry. She emailed me back that same night and said that she’d sat down to skim it just to get the gist of it but then couldn’t put it down. She said she has a friend in the business in New York who she thought would like it, so she has sent my summary of the project on to him.

I feel prouder of that than anything I’ve ever accomplished in my life. I’m excited. And I realize that this is what I’m the best at. This is what I was born to do.