I hate networking.
When writing the networking section for our upcoming book I redefined networking as “authentically making friends within areas you want to be in“. It hurts to say “networking” because it bring up images of over- (or under-) dressed people chucking business cards like ninja stars. It sucks. They suck.
I don’t even understand what networking is. I looked it up on Google and I got back definitions for connecting computers. Even Google doesn’t know what networking is. Google is probably the best networker I know, though. They connect everybody to everything and everyone. Google has networked me with all sorts of people.
The other day I was sitting on my couch talking with some people who are starting a new school (a New School new school) on the hallowed grounds of Black Mountain College and we were talking about education and meditation and having a jolly-good time. It came up that I had authored a book. Now, Will and I are the authors of required reading for their new program.
It’s only after they left that I realized something like networking had just happened. It’s only after a moment of, “OMG, did we just become besties?” that we were able to move on to what I think most people would call networking.
Will and I are still recovering from our two weeks of StartupBus and SXSW. We built a company in three days on StartupBus and SXSW is a tech conference and music and movie festival. It’s all very awesome. People like to network hardcore at those things. They throw business cards into your eye ball and say that we’ll synergize our connection later. I have a stack of business cards and I have no idea who gave them all to me.
When I talk about the experience and all the amazing new friends I made people will say, “Wow! Sounds like you did some awesome networking!” I guess they’re right.
Again, networking, in my book, means making authentic friends. If I want to “network” within a certain industry then I’ll meet a bunch of people in that industry and see if I become friends with any of them.
Some reasons we feel like we need to network:
- People tell us we need to network. And so we just assume that we need to spend a ton of time making connections.
- Other people are networking with a fervor. Oh no! Don’t fall behind! Look at how many cards that guy has. It’s going to get him everything he’s ever dreamed of having (and everything you’ve ever dreamed of having, too)!
- “It’s all about who you know.” Relationships are a huge part of life and business but I don’t know if card-slinging builds relationships. Making friends builds relationships. Being generous and loving with people builds relationships.
- You need that thing they have. Okay. You don’t need to network to get it, you need to make an offer. Friendship isn’t a possibility here because you can’t make a friend when you’re thinking about what you want from them.
- Emotional support. Maybe this isn’t what we think about when we’re networking but, in the end, it’s one of the best thing a strong network provides. Only friends can provide that though.
I have a good friend who is a professional networker. I love her but she has networked too much and made too little. She knows it and is currently correcting.
I’m not negative on having a network of people to reach out to. What I’m concerned with here is switching the network from “people I can call for favors and further connections” into “friends”.
Why make friends instead of “contacts”?
- They will help you more. A friend is more willing to help you than a business acquaintance. What’s in it for him? Nothing? Click.
- It’s more fun. Friends are fun. It’s fun to meet people and pursue the relationships that mean something to you. It’s fun to connect with people without worrying about what they can do for you.
- It’s easier. Things that are fun are easy to do. When things are easy to do you keep doing them. If you’re having a good time building your tribe and making friends then you will have a massive group of connections before you know it.
- It keeps you closer to your dream. When you follow true friendships you stay close to the place you want to be. You will resonate with people who want similar things to you. If you are forcing yourself to spend time with people you don’t like you can feel yourself veering off your path.
- You won’t become a liar. Even if you never tell them a lie, you’re lying to yourself by investing time with people you don’t actually like. You’re also lying to them by making them think you want to be their friend when you don’t. It’s just dirty all the way around.
- The people in your life actually matter. Life is too short to hate the people in it. I want to spend every day with people I love. I write the things on this blog to connect with people like you who resonate with the message. You’re who I want to be spending my time with. Not haters. Not naysayers. Not fuckwads giving me paper-cuts at conferences, barely stopping for an eye-to-eye. You. I wouldn’t mind spending time with that cute barista behind the counter either…
Those who are still trying to network like a dad (ie: old school) are missing out on making real human connections and stressing themselves out. Maybe I don’t know anything about anything. Actually, I know I don’t know anything. Whatever. The following are things I do to make better friends. I have a lot of friends. I’m not popular, I just stick my neck out to a lot of people. Some chop it off and some give me a hug.
It’s weird, I like to do business with the same people that give me hugs. I’m weird. We’re all weird now, right?
Shoot, I’m getting ahead of myself. Weirdness is one of my ‘techniques’.
Here are my favorite ways to make friends:
Bleed honestly and learn to communicate.
Be honest loudly. When you’re honest about what you’re thinking then you will attract others who resonate with your ideas. Even before StartupBros I blogged on my personal site and would talk about things that were personal. Like scary personal. I talk about my depression and suicidal thoughts and some of the girls I’ve had sex with. I talk about philosophy and the nature of existence and ways to be happier and ways to live more deeply. I just talk about what interests me. Whatever I can’t put here for you goes there. I have to talk about it somewhere.
At first I just did it because I have to write ideas and I have to share them. It’s just something that I have to do or else I pop and probably die. It was only after a year or so that I realized I was getting better at writing (people on reddit may disagree). After two years I realized that a ton of people were reading the blog. I wasn’t getting amazing amounts of traffic but people who I never suspected were coming up to me or sending emails and thanking me for helping their life. They would share the articles with people who needed them.
Other people would approach me and begin conversations. They were just acquaintances before and I had no idea that we were interested in the same kinds of things. Now we were having interesting talks and I had a new friend. Hell yeah!
Now with StartupBros I get mail every day talking about how an article helped a life. Other people email just wanting to talk about ideas. When Will and I went to SXSW we hung out with a bunch of people who we wouldn’t have even known about if it weren’t for StartupBros. We made friends that we’ll have forever. And they’re all genius business-techies, so it’s probably networking, too.
If nobody knows about your ideas or the things that you’re embarrassed about then you’re going to have lame relationships you’re whole life. You won’t be able to communicate with other people who also thing that weird thing about you is cool.
Open up to others to make room for a human connection. Then learn to communicate that effectively.
Be interesting (ie: weird).
Well, you’re already weird. This is more about embracing it than actually being it. If you talk to anybody for long enough they will become fascinating. Everybody has a crazy story – even if they don’t realize it.
Okay I hit a wall writing this just as Jon Salem called me. Jon is an ADHD coach in Tampa, FL and overall a great chap. He wanted advice on selecting a new name and logo for his business. I sent him a couple articles that Will wrote a while ago that have helped a lot of people. I also told him what my intuition was telling me (niche down!).
How does one become interesting? Sometimes it has nothing to do with having people say, “What an interesting person!” Jon immediately became more interesting to me just because he called. We only met once before and now he’s calling. He was also honest in that he said, “I want to keep in touch and so I called!” How many times have I said, “I want to keep in touch,” and not called? Pretty much all of the times. Jon is interesting because he takes action.
I’m stomping on the toes of a bunch of the following techniques for making friends.
Let me give you two more examples of new SXSW friends of StartupBros.
The first thing Tedd Fox said to me was a joke too dirty to put on the internet (too dirty for the internet!) and then he kept making jokes that I had to laugh at. If I were Catholic I would probably have to repent for laughing later but I’m not, so I just kept laughing. Tedd is one of the weirdest people I know and he’s made three #1 apps for various companies. He’s a champion and he’s hilarious and now he’s a good friend. If you want to get a taste of Tedd (or you need help with mobile development) check out NineRocketships.
“You look like shit.” That’s Zach Price’s idea of introducing himself. He wasn’t wrong. I was still drunk from the (New Orleansian) night before and hadn’t shaved or slept. Indeed, I looked like shit. If Zach didn’t introduce himself in such an interesting way I wouldn’t know him as well as I do now. As it turns out, Zach is one of the nicest/coolest/smartest dudes on the planet – and a publisher. We recorded a podcast for you on the future of the publishing industry and we’ll probably be working with Zach in the future to launch a couple projects we have lined up.
I almost forgot Egon! Egon contacted us through StartupBros.com and we had a beer with him. The first thing he started talking about was quantum physics and bizarre philosophies mashed into crazy sciences. YES! It wasn’t until a couple hours later that we learned about his business. He ended up going on the StartupBus and staying at the StartupBros house for SXSW. The guy epitomizes weirdness in the best way possible.
And now I can’t stop thinking of them. I can’t even begin to mention them all. (Sorry everyone!)
That sliver of weird that you hide away is your greatest asset. Stop covering up the most interesting thing about you.
One of the best uses for social media is to show everybody what’s interesting to you. The more you post the more chances you have of finding somebody else that’s interested also. When somebody “Like”s that you posted an article, message them about it. They are signaling to you that, “Hey, me too!”
Show people what you’re interested in and be interested in them and stop repressing the weirdness and you can’t help but be interesting.
I’ve been getting in the habit of randomly calling people in the car. It’s much better and more engaging than the radio. I even call Will every once in a while. We live close together but still spend most days texting and emailing StartupBros stuff. It’s more fun to go voice-to-voice.
I just told you Jon called me. He got my words flowing again. He didn’t mean to do that. Just the thought of “I’ll call Kyle” then he clicked the buttons to do it.
I did that with my great aunt the other day. She’s one of the wisest women I know. I didn’t have anything to talk to her about but I called her and 30 minutes later she had to leave our fascinating conversation.
Sometimes I will call a friend I haven’t spoken to in a year. Sometimes a friendship that has gone stale is revived. Sometimes not. It doesn’t matter, it still felt good to pick up the phone and call someone.
Random acts of connection.
This is an extension of calling people. Keep friendships sizzling.
I was talking the other day to a 30-something entrepreneur about this whole friend-making business. His most important thing to say was, “And keep connected, otherwise they just fade away…” and his voice faded away with saying that. He was thinking about friendships that he wish he still had.
It’s hard. You can’t keep in contact with every person you meet. I can barely keep in contact with my family and close friends that I see every day. Every time you read a news article ask yourself who you know who would find it interesting. Send it to them.
When a picture makes you laugh, send it to someone.
Just click “Like” on Facebook. Stop being so stingy with those things. How do you feel when you get one? Like a king! Spread the love, it’s not like you only have a few of them.
Send random texts saying hello or giving out some weird piece of information.
Just make random acts of human connection.
Give them something.
You can’t get anything without giving anything. This isn’t a debit system, either. Giving without getting is the only kind of giving that matters. So you have to give more and more and more – the kind of giving that feels good.
You need to be generous right now. You need to stop hoarding everything and start giving it away. Let’s say you want to meet some CEO that everybody else wants to meet. Everyone is taking from him. “Give me this and that please.” Nobody give him anything anymore.
He has everything! What could you possible give him? Ideas!
Get good at having ideas. Here are some to start you off:
● Give them nutrition advice.
● Give them fitness advice.
● Send them an article you think they’d enjoy.
● Relationship advice.
● Ideas to help further their cause.
● Ideas to help them get more business.
● Ideas to market their products.
● Ideas for features for their products.
● A flaw you noticed while using their product.
● Information about one of their passions.
● Ideas for their family members.
● Compliment something they’ve done.
StartupBros has been getting to that weird stage where it’s hard to keep up with email. Will and I get emailed by people and we love it! It’s just hard to keep up. So many of the emails look the same.
Then Eric starts emailing about trading and meditation and interesting things he’s doing. Then Casey emails and says, “Your site looks like shit and here’s what I’d do about it.” Both of them are awesome guys that I can’t wait to continue talking with.
Even when you have “nothing” to give, you have your mind. Sack up and realie that you have good ideas. That you’re as interesting as anyone else.
People who make things are more interesting than people who don’t make things. When you have made things then you have more ways to help people. There are more ways for you to help your friends out.
If you’re trying to get a job, it’s nice to be able to point to something and say, “Look what I did!”
Making things with people is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s awesome when you have something that you’re making and you can involve other people in it.
One of the people who we hung out with constantly at SXSW was Mansal from The Hacked Mind. Mansal doesn’t drink. He’s not a vegan or paleo-er but he has his own regimen that is even more insane. Will and I drink though. We hung out with Mansal a bunch of nights and drunkenly yelled. He said I was still smart but “just more passionate”. I guess I can deal with that.
Oh yeah, making things. We made a podcast together! Just because we both like making things. We also interviewed the CEO of MediaHound because Mansal is awesome.
When you make things it’s easier to help you out. Start making something now. Makers draw in good people.
Humans are humans.
Yeah, but what if I want to meet a famous person!? Well, then meet them.
At SXSW I walked up to Jack Black and told him that he informed my entire childhood. He asked, “What are you, twenty?” Then the security cards came and pushed me away because the surrounding crowd now thought they could talk to Jack Black. Bastards ruined it for me. Some humans have security guards sometimes.
Jack Black or Peter Thiel or Steve Jobs all are humans with the same human needs as you. They also worry about not being loved. They also worry that humanity might nuke itself out of existence.
The other day I met Adeo Ressi and he talked about how his friend Elon Musk is going to send people to Mars in our lifetime. That’s exciting. Adeo hangs out with billionaires all the time. One of the things that happens when you hang out with billionaires and people that send other people to space is that you begin to think big. Like, fucking BIG, and easily. He confidently talks about sending people into space and coating buildings in solar panel-goo and revolutionizing email like it’s no big deal. But he’s human.
If you watch anyone closely enough you will see insecurities pop up. You will see a micro-second of doubt or a harsh reply to something that hit too deeply. We’re all humans and we all need the same things.
Some dude gave Adeo an idea for the relationship between SpaceX and Tesla (Elon Musk’s two companies) which got him excited and he texted Elon immediately. There’s a chance that that idea speeds up our trip to Mars. Probably not, but maybe.
The best thing you can do for a superstar is treat them like a human. Not some idol like everybody else.
Stop judging people so harshly.
It’s hard to make friends with someone while you’re sitting there judging them. It’s hard to make new friends when you sit making harsh assumptions from afar. “I bet he’s a liberal” or “He’s going to hate the idea” or “She is going to think I’m an idiot” or “She has a zit, ew” or whatever else you’re thinking before approaching someone is not going to help you make a friend.
I used to be obsessed with politics. Will and I would go to rallies and protests to set this crazy world straight. It was to the point that I would be disgusted with people if they wouldn’t convert their beliefs to mine. They’re ignorance was dragging our world down! It wasn’t until I realized that I had less friends (and certainly a less diverse group) because of my judgements of people based on their political beliefs that I finally stopped.
Actually, it was after that. It was after I had a few of my rock-solid perspectives on life turned on their head. Experience teaches you that you know nothing. Every great sage throughout history has pretty much told us, “You don’t know shit.” And every one of us thinks we break the mold. Until one day we take a more honest look and admit that this whole thing is much too large for us to understand.
There are a multitude of “right” ways to live in this world and they are going to vary from person to person. If somebody is a shitty person and hurts people then maybe they deserve tolerance. If they want to worship a weird statue or believe some weird book or vote in some weird way then maybe you should have a little tolerance.
Your harsh judgements of others are a waste of your energy. Try asking yourself why that thing bothers you so much. Is it really upsetting to have to look at a fat person? Is that person really dressed so offensively? Is their poor business decision really a drag in your life (and not a valuable lesson of what not to do)?
When you stop being mean to people in your head you will notice you begin to have more friends. When you’re more accepting of people you have a whole lot more chances at friendship.
Don’t give up your values, but realize they are yours.
Follow up with people (picture texts, articles)
I just got an email from a girl I met at SXSW. I gave her a copy of the book and met her for ten minutes in the morning. She was a fast-talker and didn’t seem to like the way I was dressed. She loves the book! Maybe she also now likes my hair. Either way, I forgot about her but now I remember.
While writing this article I’ve been reminded to text or email four other people that I met at SXSW that I wanted to touch base with.
It’s nice to meet people but, “Out of sight, out of mind.” I am the worst with this. I haven’t even called to say hi to my baby niece because she’s across the country. I’ll be right back.
Okay, back, she’s doing great. Walking and everything!
My ex used to hate it because I wouldn’t text her every day. I would go a couple days just working and forget I had a girlfriend. That’s no good.
The same thing with all my relationships. Even with Facebook, email, texting, teleporation, and the power of speech I still don’t stay connected with all the people I want to. I don’t see them every day, how can I remember to say hi?
Well you can start with the random acts of connection I talked about above.
Be like John, call when you think about calling.
Be like my ex wanted me to be like – text when you thought of texting.
Relationships fade extremely quickly. Make a list of ten relationships you don’t want to fade.
Maybe five of these are strictly personal and the other five are personal and professional. Make an event on Google Calendars that repeats every Monday. Put the list in the event and then contact all of them that day.
Don’t break the chain. Keep your relationships alive by constantly infusing interest and love into other people’s lives.
I hate going to events and meeting new people. Like I will make up almost every excuse not to go.
Meeting new people is such a drag. “What do you do?” Then I have to tell people that I don’t even know what I do but I run this site StartupBros and have they heard of it? Then they will sit there and make fun of me and tell me about their boring business and the whole time I’ll have to pee. They’ll probably also stake me out as a fraud and laugh in front of the whole party or event.
Or at least that’s what I assue will happen every time.
What actually happens is I make a new friend every time. I meet a new person and my heart beats fast and I blurt out the weird thing I’ve been thinking about all day and then they say, “Wow! I love that, too, have you heard that…” and we have a magical conversation and go frolicking together.
My heuristic for accepting invitations is:
The worse you want to stay in, you have to go out.
Every time I put off a meeting with a person I know that I need to schedule it for ASAP.
Next time somebody invites you to something. Go. Unless it’s a heroin party. Those will shit on your life faster than a seagull watching you buy a new car. Go with an open mind. Go with the willingness to shake a hand, look somebody in the eyes, and say something interesting.
One of the best ways to get to know somebody is to interview. There is something about sitting in front of a mic together talking for an audience that brings out stories and little details that don’t come out otherwise. You’ll see what I mean when we start releasing our recorded podcasts.
You don’t need to have a platform to interview people. Do an information interview. This is a great way to meet new people.
I’ve gotten to know a lot of huge successes just by asking them questions. People who have had success want to share the love.
It doesn’t need to be a sit down interview, either. You can email back and forth.
I just met a kid who had literally zero business experience before landing a job at a private equity firm. How did he get the job? He asked the founder of it if he could email him some business questions. Apparently he asked great questions because he got the job and is now working on a brand new (massive and exciting) education project. I can’t wait to tell you more about that but for now, just email somebody who you wish you could connect with.
Introduce ideas together (the people that have them)
When two people want to do things and they mash up to fill each other’s holes, you’ve got a magic. You now are making friends by connecting friends outside of yourself.
A friend needs a website built for some city that’s booming in Panama. I have a friend that loves building websites for booming cities! I e-introduced the two. I hope the hug and become good friends. Another guy paints to music and needs a videographer – I know videographers who love painting! BAM! More friendships.
When you create a friendship outside of yourself it’s like multiplying your own friendships. They will be building their relationship and you’ll be in their mind.
When somebody says, “I need to find somebody who can do ____ or is interested in ___,” then go through your friends and see if any match up. Ask your friends if they have any friends that match up.
Nobody loses when connections are made. It’s like this web of a thing that just keeps growing and growing. Almost like a network. Don’t scientize the building of the web (or worry about my neologisms) or you’ll miss the magic sauce. The magic is friendship, human connection. That doesn’t happen unless there’s sincerity.
Barbell Networking: Create an Antifragile Network of Friends
“Kyle, you’ve told me nothing about networking. Fuck you and your friendship ideals, I wanted actual advice!”
Yes, huh! I did too! If you know how to make a good friend and you understand that every human is in fact a human then you know how to meet anyone you want.
But fine, if you don’t believe me that you’re network depends on your ability to make friends. If you don’t believe me that life is better when you make more friends (and that those friends will also bring you the most business success) that’s okay. One day you will. Everyone burns out when they network for networking’s sake.
In the meantime, I’ll give you some real, hardcore, “practical” networking advice.
Anybody who has read me before knows that I love Nassim Taleb, especially his most recent book, Antifragile. In it he describes a strategy of barbelling activities. His barbell fitness routine is this: lift extremely heavy weights once a weak or so and then walk 20-30 hours a week. For eating: feast one day and fast another. Investing: have 90% of assets in the safest thing possible and 10% in the riskiest (highest potential reward) possible. He creates these situations for himself that gives his life variation.
As humans we tend to try to straighten things out and force them into easily digestible/definable explanations that make a nice story. We are scared of uncertainty. But everything extreme happens in uncertainty.
For instance, a good friend of mine has been playing guitar gigs in the Florida Keys for a few years. Recently Andy Hilfiger (Tommy’s brother) saw him at a gig and said, “You got to get out of Florida, come to LA and I’ll do what I can to make it happen for you.” Bam! Completely unexpected and now John is going to L.A. Here is him singing The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun:
What did John do? He showed up. He kept showing up (just like The Beatles). And then he connected with a bunch of people and one of those people happened to be Andy Hilfiger.
You have this kind of serendipity in your life. Let’s add more.
We are going to make a barbell out of your friend-making life.
Step 1: Connect as shallowly and widely as possible. Go on Facebook and “Like” everything. Join a bunch of groups that interest you. Go to a bunch of parties and meet everyone there. Shake as many hands as you can.
HOLD IT! Doesn’t this go against everything I said before? No. These aren’t people that you want to be friends with. Go as shallow as possible. Meet a million people until….
You look in the other person’s eyes and you see magic. Or you just get the strong feeling that you want to know more about the person. Or if they just make you feel good about life. Skip as quickly as possible all those people who you know you don’t want to be friends with. Spread your seed wide! Get it all over social networking sites and parties. Literally twenty seconds ago a guy messaged me on Facebook (which is the dumbest tab I could possible have open while trying to write) to tell me that he met a guy at a party that invited him to the New York House of Genius (the other dumbest thing is putting links to point away from your website – come back to me!)
The difference here between card-slinging networking and friend-making is that we’re actually looking for friends on this one. The connection is different. When you feel that connection, dive!
Step 2: Go deep. After you make the initial connection, commit. Don’t treat the person like an acquaintance, treat them like a friend. You shouldn’t make 100 friends at a conference, maybe just 10 (and that’s probably too many). Get to know them. Get to trust them. Maybe see how you can build something together. Put in the TIME! It will be weird to see other connections passing you by. Business cards walking past. Don’t make a friend feel like shit because you want to spread your seed further.
At SXSW this year I probably made six friendships that will last for years. That’s more than almost anywhere else there can say.
Spread your ideas wide, skip over everyone. Then when you find one that hits you, commit! (This advice is easy for me to follow in friendships, harder in romance.)
Finally, Your Network Is Already Massive And Powerful
I learned about 3rd degree connections in Ben Casnocha’s (and Reid Hoffman’s, I guess) fantastic book The Startup of You. He points out that you’re connected to like a bajillion people if you go by the third degree. That means your friend’s friend’s friend. LinkedIn demonstrates the power of the third degree like this:
Suppose you have 40 friends, and assume that each friend has 35 other friends in turn, and each of those friends of friends has 45 unique friends of their own. If you do the math (40 × 35 × 45), that’s 54,000 people you can reach via an introduction.
That’s a LOT of people. And most of us have more than 35 direct friends. The secret here is that one person in the chain knows you. Look at this chain: You -> John (1st) -> Jane (2nd) -> Jim(3rd). When John introduces you to Jane, John knows you. When Jane introduces you to Jim she knows you through John. This keeps the trust in the connection.
Do not go around crying that you don’t know the people who are included in the “it’s about who you know” thing. Don’t accept that excuse from yourself. You’re better than that. Your friends know it and you know it.
The point is, wherever you need friends, there they are.