Jerry Colonna, who I had the good fortune to meet in person the other day, has a really great response to a frustrated entrepreneur in Texas, but there's one point I want to comment on...
"you MUST get connected. You know that business relies on people connecting with other people and that few great ideas are truly great enough to break through and emerge as successful companies without the founder/entrepreneur/CEO going out and pressing the flesh. So you don't have an MBA. So what? Go out and find a network you can join. If there's none in your area, start a chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) or Young Entrepreneurs' Organization (YEO). Go to you nearest university and meet with the professors there."
It is important to be connected, but a lot of people's efforts to get connected are misguided or too forced. That's why, although I'm a huge proponent of networking, I'm always very cynical about the networking nights that Fordham tries to do with its Young Alumni. I tried to focus those efforts on a three month mentoring program, where you could build a relationship over time. To me, networks are what develops naturally out of being a productively functioning and active member of a number of circles. I never tried to develop a network, but I was always active in pursuing my interests and so my network grew out of that. If you're growing a network and you don't have one currently, I'd wonder what's going on that is leaving you out of what should naturally be your network given your course of business.
For example, I have an idea for an online information service related to college recruiting. That idea comes out of the student mentoring I've done, which connects me to many people in and around the career education world, and some recruiters as well. It was my participation in this network, because it was an interest of mine, that grew the idea. By talking to all these people, I found a need and came up with an idea to fill it. If you ideas are grown in a bubble, away from customers, peers, other entrepreneurs, its probably not a well tested or appropriate product for the market. If I wanted to shop this idea around a network, I have one already because it is a relevent network that helped grow the idea in the first place. If you join a network with the intention to see what you get out of it, people will see right through you.
Its a lot like dating. When you go out to a bar with the intention of hooking up, you're unlikely to build a long term relationship out of that. People are a bit guarded, because they know you're "on the prowl" and they're trying to play defense. Its a market that paralyzes its sellers because they're all afraid of getting duped. Its all too forced.
However, if you just pursue your interests on a regular basis, taking part in activities you enjoy, you will find yourself meeting people with shared interest and you've got a much higher chance of success. I met lots of great people at the Boathouse in a much more natural and informal way. I always wonder about people whose only outlet for finding new people is at a bar.
A lot of times, I find both people who understand this point and people who don't at professional gatherings. When I'm at ILPA, I talk to the people I like and the ones I find interesting, rather than anyone I feel like it might be fruitful for me to cozy up to. I think these personal connections are much stickier than those made by new entrants trying to "work the crowd."
So, not to say that Jerry's suggestions won't bear fruit, they're good suggestions. I just want to point out that networking--the building of really effective long term relationships--happens over time and it happens not because you go out and look for it. It is the coming together of like minded individuals taking part in activities for their own sake, not necessarily to get connected to other people. Just be careful not to cross that line between trying to connect and enjoy time with like minded individuals and trying to get something out of them.
They're building a 24 story hi-rise right down the street from me on 83rd and York. They leveled 4 or 5 walkups that were abandoned when I first moved in 2001 and now they're finally starting construction. I think these big cranes are wild. These are the ones that climb alongside the building as it goes up. It just looks so out of place at the end of this block before the building is visable. Check out the big hole in the ground for the foundation, though.
On Thursday night, I went straight from LaGuardia to Bar 515. PS, the Delta Shuttle to Boston is wonderful. You literally drive up and park about 500 feet from the plane, and the whole process takes about 5 minutes to get on. Its a pleasure. Anyway, so I drove straight to the bar, and parked by one of those Muni Meter things. They really dropped the ball by not letting you insert bills into it. I suppose that's done on purpose, because they're counting on you not having change. Its more lucrative for the city for you to get a ticket than for you to pay the meter.
Anyway, so I've got my phone and my keys and I'm shuffling through the bag in my trunk for change. The moment I closed the trunk, I was like, "Oh shit."
I know at that moment, without checking my pockets, that I had left the keys in the trunk. It was like I was subconsciously paying attention, but not enough to remember to put the keys back in my pocket, just enough to notice that I left them lying in the trunk. Anyway, remembering the commercial, I called the Pontiac Roadside Assistance people and they transferred me to OnStar. I told the lady that I locked myself out and she's like, "No problem, we'll have the drivers side door unlocked in ten minutes... I just need your PIN number from you."
Faaaaaaantastic! They opened it by satellite. How cool is that? Anyway, that only got me halfway there, though, because the keys were in the trunk and I don't think my car has a truck latch inside the car. I know that's hard to believe, but I really checked. I'll have to go consult the manual on this, but its certainly not in any place that any normal human being would expect it to be. So, I had to climb into the back seat, pull the fold down seats to get into the trunk, and climb into the truck from inside the car. I was literally in the trunk up to my waist with my legs flopping around the inside of the car. I couldn't see anything and I was just blindly groping. Finally, I found them, and ended this amusing incident unscathed. That right there makes OnStar worth it, though. I mean, being a GM employee, we get it for free, but whatever the price is, that incident definately saved me a good hundred bucks and much time wasted, because I'm sure that's what a tow truck or lock guy would have changed me to Slim Jim their way in.
This random linking epidsode, combined with some screaming protesters on the street at Union Square last night make me thing that one of the problems with our country, and maybe even the world, is that we spend way too much time criticizing other people and debating issues and not nearly enough time actually creating positive change in our immediate lives. How much money was donated to political campaigns this year by people who have never given a dime to any charity in their lives before, or even worse, never having given any of their time to any charity. I try to help people around me... that's why I want to write the book, that's why I do these mentoring programs, and that's one of the reasons I like the Boathouse. Not everyone has to spend time in a soup kitchen for it to be a worthwhile charitable endeavor. Just treating people right would be a start.
Ask yourselves what are the last three selfless things you did for other people? Stuck for an answer? What about the last time you criticized someone or attacked them personally for their political views?
Now, that's not to say you can't have views and support politicians that represent your views, but the level of derisiveness that we've sunken to has to stop, especially since so few of us are doing our part as quality human beings. This is not a glass house we should be throwing stones from, people. Go spend more time with your family and close friends. Be supportive of them. Go do something nice for someone... go show your appreciation for someone. Give of your time to a charitable, as oppossed to a political, cause. Helping people is the most non-partisan activity you can take on, and there's not enough of it. Was John Kerry going to save the world? End homelessness? Comfort the sick? Take in the tired, the poor, yearning to breathe free? No, and neither will George Bush. Its up to each and every one of us individually to, as Ghandi says, to "be the change we want to see in the world." I'm so sick of everyone being so negative and critical. And I do it, too, so I'm not saying I'm perfect. One of my new goals is going to be to encourage people to find positive solutions to as many simple, immediate problems as they can find. Let's not waste any more time debating this bygone election. Neither candidate was a great man, and I'll debate that with anyone. We don't have enough great people around because it seems easier to knock people down than to aspire to be great.
Who is a great person that we can all get behind? Is Barak great? I don't know. Sein seems to think so. I honestly don't know enough about him, but his blog is on my FeedDemon. He's holding town hall meetings and he's asked for commentary on his site. I think the most important comment was simply, "Thanks for asking." I never see my local counsel people except for election time. They're supposed to be representing me, but I don't see them asking me what I think. I'm trying to get Fordham to do some polling or town hall type things to see what the alumni base is thinking. Feedback. Great people are great because they ask a lot of questions and strive to inform themselves about their constituencies. Great marketers know their audience, and great politicians should be spending half their time in their own districts just talking to people.
I think I'm going to try and make an appointment with my local counselpeople just to talk and see what's on their mind, find out what they do, etc. I think that would make for interesting blogging. Let's see what our representatives are up to.
We have a first today at the site... Someone random linked to me.
I was looking at my referring sites and noticed a site a didn't recognize. I have no idea who this person is, but he linked to my post regarding "the big red middle." I'm not going to defend my opinion for two reasons:
1) I shouldn't have to. I posted my feelings and I wasn't knocking anyone else's feelings.
2) The comment obviously wasn't meant to be serious political analysis and commentary. Anytime I end a post with "warm, fuzzy feelings" and "Go Rudy" you should be intuitive enough to realize I'm not being serious. Truthfully, that's how I feel, but it was a silly, offhand comment. If I was posting a more serious assessment on the reasons why I think Rudy Giuliani would make a better President than Hilary Clinton you'd be able to tell the difference.
Obviously, people's opinions differ from my own, and I respect that. What I can't stand is people who will personally attack those whose opinions differ from their own. The random guy who linked to me went on to describe the Midwest, which supported Bush in large numbers (4-8% in a controversial and highly contested presidential election is a pretty solid margin as far as I'm concerned... ), in the following manner:
"That big red middle you got your mandate from, a lot of that "red" is sand, dirt, rocks, water, and three guys with AK-47s! Do you really think every square mile of this great country has the same population density? Dear Lord no, you can't be that stupid, can you."
I'm sorry, but that's just really offensive. My best friend is from Wyoming and she's a lovely human being. I understand the nature of population density and we can debate this all we want, but the bottom line is that Bush won and Kerry lost, no matter how you slice it. What's not necessary is to rip on anyone's personal opinion. I don't think anyone was stupid for voting for John Kerry. In fact, I was a Kerry voter, just barely, for a good part of this election, and it wasn't until the debates that I ran out of patience with him. I don't think anyone would be stupid to vote for Hilary Clinton if she ever ran either. I personally dislike her (greatly) but the best part about our country is that we're all free to express our opinion. There's no need to characterize people in Middle America as three guys with AK-47s. That's just offensive and disrespectful, and there's nothing that can justify that. We're one country, and while we don't always agree, we should respect each other and take each other seriously.
Also, there's no need to characterize me as Republican. I'm a registered independent and I'm pretty liberal on a number of issues. Frankly, I think political parties should be banned and I'd like to just choose based on each candidates individual criteria, rather than their ability to tow a party line. That's why I like Bloomberg. Let's be clear, now. Mayor Mike is a Democrat. He switched parties to run in the mayoral election and avoid a very crowded Democratic slate of hopefuls. He could care less about political parties, because he's rich enough to care less. He says what he feels and does what he feels is right. I respect that.
Anyway... I will give the random linker credit for an amusing headline to his post.
"This is going to be stupid. I can feel it." Highly amusing.
I wonder how he found my blog. Perhaps now that I've posted this, he'll come out of the woodwork and post a comment on my site as opposed to just talking behind my blog. :)