I think the surest way to define networking is helping others out with no expectations of a return. That part is super hard. Especially if you quantify your life as being worthy of X amount of dollars. Which you are until you’re not. I read an article yesterday where a woman yelled, “I won’t read your fucking manuscript.” It was one of those things where a beginner writer asks a professional writer to read something of theirs and the professional is all, “I’m super busy and paid my dues and have no time for ya.” And this is where networking is key. Knowing how far to push it and how far NOT to push it. I fail miserably and succeed highly in this arena. I’m a pro networker with a long list of people that just don’t like me.
I think where people fail in networking is pride. They’re afraid of bothering someone or sticking their neck out. In general, people are very afraid of sticking their necks out. I don’t personally have a shit ton of pride so network away. I figure if someone thinks I’m cheesy for asking the question, they can just go right ahead and fuck off. I haven’t done what I’ve done on my own two feet by worrying about what others think of me. Women worry way too much about what people think of them.
In the article, the woman states how valuable her time is as an artist. This is true. I’ve written hundreds of essays/articles/interviews with some thank yous and zero bucks. I belong to the club of day job writer. I pay my bills from my own company I started six years ago and now maintain from a distance so I can write. But my day job success was and is only successful because of networking. Which in the case of starting my own business, had everything to do with asking questions every single place I went. “Probing” as my biz partner calls it. How I get people to talk about stuff they wouldn’t normally offer. I call it conversation but others call it interviewing.
Now the networking comes into play when you remember what that person said. Here’s an example…I met a guy in a bar in Malaysia. An Australian with a sailboat. In the conversation, I heard he needed to go back to Thailand for a paint job and he’s interested in eventually getting into guest sailing. I filed that away in my brain until later. Three days after meeting him and getting his email address…I wrote him. “How about if I pay you to take my family back to Thailand on your boat and I’ll pay for the paint job (he’d also dropped it would cost $1800 to paint). So, we did it. 14 days on the Adaman Sea island hopping with an Australian Captain. It was fantastic and a total highlight of my family’s life. 100% because I networked my way into it. I stuck my neck out. I mean, what was the worst thing he could say…”No, fuck off?”
And you hear these stories everywhere. Recently I interviewed an author who told me a story that happened to him years ago. He sent in a fiction short to Esquire and was rejected. A year later, the minion editor that had to reject the story, contacted him and said….”hey, I really did love your story but it wasn’t for Esquire. I’m starting a new publication and would like you to be in the first issue.” That new publication was McSweeney’s and the minion editor from Esquire was none other than Dave Eggers. Well once McSweeney’s came out, Esquire contacted the author I was interviewing and NOW wanted another short story to publish. The author said, “If I hadn’t said yes to this brand new publication that nobody had ever heard of before, Esquire wouldn’t have called.” My point is this…always remember the people around you are possible allies. Everyone has a connection to someone or something that might be helpful. Usually in an arena you wouldn’t think important. But they all might be.
So when someone asks you for a favor. For free. Before you just say no because you’re super important and super busy and fuck off nobody person asking, remember you just might be saying no to the next Mark Cuban, Tina Fey, JK Rowling. These moments where we do others a favor, where we stretch to make connections…might just change the course of someone’s life…and that life, might just be yours.