Back to School

Well, it seems that we have weathered the dog days of summer.  After an unbelievably hot, dry summer, it’s already starting to cool outside and school is back in session.  My nine year old son, Ian, returned to school this morning to commence his big fourth grade year and could not have been more excited!  He told me that after an “amazing summer” (his words) he was ready to see his school friends again and get back to studying.  I thought that his sentiment would be good for all of us to adopt!

So, students of networking, let’s get back to it!  Here’s tonight’s homework assignment:  Challenge yourself to do three things:

  1. What is one – or maybe two – things that you would like to learn about in the next month or so?  Write it down then come up with few ways to accomplish that goal.  For example, if you have always wanted to learn more about cooking, now is the time to educate yourself.  To do so you might pick up a new cookbook from a great chef.  Another option would be to take a cooking class.  Finally, you could identify a local restaurateur and… what else… ask if you can pick his/her brain over lunch at his/her restaurant!  Which, of course, takes me to the second task I have in mind for you…
  2. Who would you like to get to know?  Whether it is the underwater basket weaving expert in your community or an entrepreneur who just founded the hottest new company in town or a potential client who you have been meaning to connect with, what are you waiting for?  Quick:  Write down the names of three people who you will contact by the end of the week.  Your goal is to get 15-30 minutes of their time over coffee to get to know them and learn more about the work they are doing.
  3. Finally, a third task.  Reach out to three people who are already in your relationship base with whom you have not connected in at least three months.  Write down their names on a sheet of paper (if you write it down, you are more likely to complete your assignment) along with their phone numbers and/or email addresses.  Your goal:  Simply say “hello.”  You may give them a quick call; you could even mention that they are under no obligation to return the call – just leave a voice message with a warm greeting to let them know that they were on your mind.  Done.  You’ve reconnected!  Of course, it would be better yet to grab lunch or coffee with them sometime in the near future – if that is a possibility, be sure to get it scheduled.

Just so you know, and to give you a better sense for the quality of the work that I expect from each of you, I, too, plan to engage in these tasks.  For a frame of reference, here are my initial answers to the questions posed:

  1. I reached out to one of my favorite bloggers, Brad Feld, to get his advice on gaining better discipline around more frequently writing blog posts.  Every morning I wake up and, true to form, there is a new post from Brad in my inbox.  I don’t know how he does it!  For me, I have tons of topics swirling in my head, but I find that I lack the time to get them written up to share with all of you.  He had some awesome advice (I’m paraphrasing):  a) Create a backlog of topics so to take pressure off of yourself to come up with a topic for today’s post – if you don’t have a specific topic for today, go to your backlog list and pick up something interesting that you thought of before but never wrote about; b) be dispassionate about the quality of the post – simply get your thoughts down in writing; c) don’t worry about whether a particular topic will resonate or be embraced by your larger audience – if it is interesting to you, write about it but do so without expectation of applause or appreciation from others; and d) discipline yourself to write every day – perhaps at night or in the mornings when you first get up – and it will simply become habit.  Great advice, Brad, thanks for the tips!
  2. There is a fellow in my office, Sam Arbesman, who has been lauded as one of the smartest cats around!  Our offices are just a few doors from one another and, yet, we have spent a negligible amount of time together.  Apparently a math genius, I feel like I need to learn more about what Sam is up to because I am clearly missing out.  So, yesterday, I mentioned this to Sam and invited him to lunch.  To my delight he accepted the verbal invitation and I look forward to getting to know him and his research.  (His book, The Half-Life of Facts:  Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date is coming out next month and he will be one of the featured speakers at the TEDx KC event in a few weeks!)
  3. I’m picking up the phone right now to call my friend and former colleague, Kelly Hancox.  She is one of my favorite people on earth!  A kind and caring person, a true professional who is doing great things at Garmin and, now, a new mom to two gorgeous twin daughters.  I haven’t seen her in way too long and I must, simply must, see those two babies who are already going on six months.  My goal is to get over to see her and her family one night next week.

OK, students, for those of you who are already on your way to completing your assignment, I give you an A+.  Welcome back.  It’s going to be a great year!

2 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. For your friend Kelly – Garmin needs an app that you can find directions on your phone and send them directly to your garmin.

    For you – I just moved to a new city. Give me some advice on making friends. Between work and family I have found no time left to make friends.

    1. Hi, Amy, thanks for your note. Curious as to which city you moved to. Whatever the case, here are a few ideas: I recognize that you may not have ultimate control over your work schedule, however, I suggest that you carve out time — at least once or twice per week — to have morning coffee or lunch with someone new. Of course, that begs the question — who to ask out for lunch. Consider asking someone from your old city for the name(s) of someone who they know in your new city; often the best recommendations for people to get to know come from your current friends. Another idea is to join a LinkedIn group for your new city — could be industry-specific or simply geographically specific; then, join in the online dialogue. If someone posts something of particular interest, follow up with a 1:1 message inviting that person to continue the conversation. A third idea is to find out whether there is a local alumni chapter from your college or university — reach out to the current president of the club and find out how to get involved. Finally, consider joining or forming a book club to meet once every six weeks or so. It would give you one night out of the house to simply focus on relationship building for yourself and will have far reaching positive implications for you long-term. You can start by inviting two colleagues from work, then ask each of them to invite two friends. Choose a business or professional development themed book (I can give you some suggestions if this idea resonates) to get started — later, the group can choose to branch out into a more eclectic mix of books. Does that help? I know that these answers are somewhat general, but without knowing more about your specific situation, I thought I would keep my suggestions pretty high level. Please let me know if you would like to discuss further and good luck! Cheers! — Alana
      P.S. — Kelly at Garmin tells me there is a service they offer exactly like the one you describe — I believe she is going to reach out to you directly to share the info.

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