How to Build A Million Dollar Network of Mentors, Colleagues, and Associates
The notion of the self-made man is a myth.
For years, I thought that if I worked hard enough I would succeed. In college, I thought that if I didn’t click with someone, it was OK to stop talking to them. I thought that if someone doubted me, it was OK to burn the bridge. I thought that if I was owed a favor, it was OK to cash in and then check out of the relationship.
After all, I was going to succeed…. no matter what.
If you think your intelligence, determination, or iron resolve will make you succeed, I empathize with you. If you believe you can make it on your own, I feel sorry for you…. because you’re taking the stairs to the penthouse when there is an elevator just behind the double doors.
Long before Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, long before Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz transformed the networking landscape with Never Eat Alone, people were leveraging relationships to get ahead.
Robert Kiyosaki once said, “If you want to go somewhere, it’s best to find someone who has already been there.”
In any field, your success largely depends on your ability to build and maintain relationships. In this article I am going to teach you how to do both. But first, let me paint a picture.
Two students are graduating college,
Student A is really smart, gifted with incredible resources, and great at making friends. However, he is also very entitled. He thinks that the world is his oyster, and because he believes he can build new relationships whenever he wants, he doesn’t bother to maintain them.
Student B is of average intelligence, doesn’t have nearly as many resources as Student A, but is just as good at making friends. The key difference between the two is that Student B, unlike Student A, would rather sever a limb than sever a connection. As a result, Student B has become a master at maintaining relationships.
Who has more resources in post grad life? Who has an easier time finding a job?
I know this because I was Student A, and one of my best friends, James, was Student B. James was an expert at staying on good terms with people. Growing up my friends and I would make fun of him for messing with someone one day and the next day being their best friend. We laughed when he would get in scuffle with some poor kid, and then the next day stick up for them. We harassed him for never wanting to burn a bridge.
Little did I know, it was one of his greatest strengths. His ability to look for the good in everyone, to maintain relationships no matter the circumstance was an invaluable trait. You are only as strong as your network.
Many times, we see relationships as expendable. If there isn’t that instant connection, it is time to move on. It is in moments like these that we can learn from my childhood friend, James.
The aptitude for maintaining relationships is just as important as the propensity for building them.
Over the last year, I learned this by going from a state of having no mentors, zero friends with similar interests and goals, to connecting with some of the most successful people in my field and linking up with likeminded colleagues all around me.
So without further ado, let’s dive into how to become a networking guru.
The first step to building relationships is to have the willingness to reach out. It is safe to assume, that the people that you most likely wish to network and connect with have already built their own solid network. Needless to say, they aren’t going to be coming to you, so you have to reach out and connect with them. You can do that through a networking event, an email, or even a phone call, but you already know that.
What you may not know is that in order to infiltrate the network of a well-established figure within your field, you have to show up with something to offer. Growing up, one thing my older cousin would continuously stress was that you should, “always bring something to the table.”
Now it’s easy to assume that there isn’t much that you can offer to someone who is already more successful and connected than you, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are struggling to identify what you could bring to the table of someone who already has more than you, I recommend you watch this video. In it, I chat with Dougie Forlano, “The Millionaire Mentee,” revealing how he built a vast network of high profile mentors out of nothing, simply by bringing value to everyone he met.
Often the best way to go about connecting to a well established figure, is finding “an in.” Ask family, friends, friends of friends, if they know anyone who might have relationship with the person you are seeking to connect or network with. It is always better to get introduced by someone than to come out of nowhere with a random proposal/introduction.
If you do find someone who knows the person you are seeking to connect or network with, when you contact them, make sure to put that person’s name in the subject of your email or at the beginning of any message that you send them. At the end, be sure to mention what you are bringing to the table. It better be more than your good looks or hard work.
One thing to remember when you are reaching out to new people is to not be afraid to be persistent. Sometimes you won’t reach your person of interest on the first go-around. If that is the case, don’t hesitate to contact them again. Sometimes emails get lost, phone calls get ignored, or people get caught up in something and forget to respond. As long as you’re coming from a place where you are offering value, your person of interest should welcome a conversation. Not to mention, successful people usually respect persistence, because it’s a characteristic they most likely have also channeled throughout previous ventures.
If they still don’t respond, don’t sweat it. Move on and don’t hold any bad blood. There is always the opportunity that you can connect down the road. However, that opportunity won’t be there if you get “too persistent.”
If you want to connect with someone on your level, which I recommend you do before you even reach for mentors, I would suggest the principle of going first. In hypnosis, going first means putting yourself in the shoes of someone experiencing an emotion or incident before you articulate it. Here I use the term to suggest you first become interested in another person, before you expect them to become interested in you. Interest breeds interest.
In my own life, I found that I often connect with people best when I am in scenario where I need to make friends. For example, when I go on a vacation, or when I first went to college, I noticed I would build relationships much more quickly. The reason why is because when you enter a new atmosphere things are unstable. The need to build a network for the purpose of familiarity and security inspires interest. You begin to emotionally invest in other people and cultivate a desire to understand how their personal qualities, goals, and desires align with your own.
When you become interested in another person, they become interested in you. By showing genuine interest, you offer others something we all value: a feeling of significance.
By connecting with people who share your interests and goals, you expedite your ability to achieve those goals. As Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend time around the most.”
Human beings are like sponges. We absorb the quality of everything from the foods we eat to the company we keep. Surround yourself with people who want accomplish what you do, and you will learn from each other’s successes and failures. Sooner or later, you will all be closer to your goals by working together than you would be separately. Create a mastermind group if you must.
One bonus tip I would offer is to adapt. Don’t treat everyone the same, and don’t behave in the same way with everyone you meet. Endless research shows that your ability to connect with other people depends on your ability to relate to them. If you are speaking with someone who uses very proper language and mannerisms, make sure you follow that etiquette. Conversely, if you are speaking with someone who swears and speaks much more casually, feel free to do that as well.
There are loads of unconscious techniques you can use to better connect with other people. If you are interested in exploring these techniques further, I recommend you watch this video on the three psychological tips that help you connect with anyone.
Now that you have learned how to build relationships, it is time to learn how to maintain them. This is much easier because many of the principles essential to maintaining relationships have been previously expressed above. However, there are some key things you need to pick up
Relationship maintenance is an art form.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not simply a matter of checking in on people now and again. In fact, persistent contact in a relationship can get annoying if it isn’t going anywhere. If you hound people with messages out of fear of losing a connection you might actually make people feel like you are using them. The last thing you want is for them to feel like you are just maintaining the relationship so you can cash in a favor when you need it.
Instead, it is best to communicate only when there is something worthwhile to say. This can be anything from recommending a book or a movie, to saying congratulations on an achievement, or to getting feedback on idea. As long as you show the person that you value their time and have something meaningful to share or discuss, the relationship will only grow stronger.
Ultimately, relationship maintenance is founded on one principle: reciprocity.
If you give, you shall receive. Oddly enough, this principle has been around since the dawn of time. It is found in countless religious texts, pieces of self-help literature, and entrepreneurship manifestos. However, it is probably one of the techniques least often employed by business enthusiasts. Many of us have a tendency to mark tit for tat. We fear being the first one to lend a helping hand, because what if the recipient doesn’t return the favor? Instead of worrying about the return, do as Keith Ferrazzi says, “lead with generosity.”
In Never Eat Alone (which is an essential read BTW), Ferrazzi likens relationship maintenance to a muscle. Unlike many are led to believe, a relationship and its resources are not finite, “like a pie that can only be cut into so many pieces.” Instead, they grow stronger the more you interact and exchange ideas and services. The more you nurture the relationship with your own contributions the more you can harvest from it. The more you harvest from it, the more space there is for new resources to grow.
One way you can consistently nurture a relationship is by connecting people with others who might share their ideas or philosophies. Remember earlier I said that you share the characteristics of the five people you spend time around the most? (Well, Jim Rohn said it first) Well, if you connect people with others who share parallels, you might help them polish their approach and expedite their progress.
Even if you connect someone to another person below them, for instance by recommending a young kid for an internship, you are actually doing more good than harm. People want to be surrounded by likeminded people, from tenderfoot interns to potential business partners. If you can help them to do that, your relationship is only going to get stronger. Keeping that in mind, it’s always best to ensure the other person, again, brings something valuable to the table.
There is nothing more satisfying than having a huge network of people whose backs you have scratched. Not everyone will scratch your back in return, but many will. The more you offer to others, the more resources you will have. Eventually, you might realize, as many do, that you actually enjoy helping others just for the sake of it.
If you are independent entrepreneur, a corporate employee, or undergraduate student it is essential you master the art of relationship building and maintenance. When you learn to cultivate strong relationships, you can then leverage this network of connections to find jobs, embark on new business ventures, find resourceful associates, produce new customer bases and audiences, develop partnerships, and/or make spectacular deals.
No matter your field, a robust interpersonal network is the key to optimizing your personal and professional enterprise. You know what you need to do. Now it’s time to step off the stairs, and hop on the elevator.
I’ll see you at the top.
Thanks for reading!