Personal Experiment: 7 Days of Value

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Photo by Susannah Conway (www.susannahconway.com)

I’ve got a thing for personal experiments.  Every once and a while, I’ll take a week and do something a bit differently– whether it’s eating only one meal a day, going without clocks, or living on a food-stamp budget.  I’ve learned an enormous amount from these little life trials, and while most of those things aren’t terribly applicable to this blog, I recently tried an experiment that was: value week.

So what’s value week?

Most of the time when people talk about networking, I zone out in 10 seconds or less.  Greased hair, schmoozing, and makin’ it rain business cards– it’s nothing I want any part in.  Unfortunately, part of me realizes that at some level, networking is a very useful thing to do.  Fortunately, there are plenty of people out there who promote networking as something more than taking names and sending out form email follow-ups.

They see networking as being an activity primarily comprised of providing value to people.  You give them the opportunities, the information, or the contacts that matter to them, and you let the rest take care of itself.  If and when you need something, everyone you know will be all too happy to help.  But that second part is an afterthought; pumping value is the habit.

According to this philosophy, networking is not something you do when you sense you’ll be laid off– it’s a way of life.  If you are continually being useful to the people you know, things will take care of themselves.

My Most Recent 1-Week Experiment: Value Week

Inspired by this idea of always providing value for those already in my network, a friend and I decided that we would, every day for a week, send at least one person in our network at least one of the following:

  • An introduction to someone they’d love to know
  • An opportunity they’d be up for
  • Information about something they’re interested in

And that’s the order of preference we kept– an introduction is better than an opportunity, and an opportunity is better than information.

So for the next week, we made introductions like madmen, sent out every job and program and contest applicable to our friends, and doubled down on relaying book recommendations, fascinating articles, and other interesting information.  This was not easy.  It was genuinely hard to think of stuff by the end– but we took away a few lessons that make this sort of habit easier to sustain.

  • Keep your ears open to dreams.  If you want to get good at hooking people up with awesome, one of the best ways to figure out what kind of value you can provide someone is when they talk about their dreams or desires.  If you can develop an ear for people talking about their deepest wishes and basically just record ALL of those, maybe even review them every once and a while, you’re in good shape to really help people in cool ways.  Carry a notepad or use a phone app– but just make sure that when people start waxing dreamy, you’re taking note.
  • Always go with a plus one.  Another rule of thumb: always bring someone with– preferably someone new to some/all of the people in the group you’re going to meet.  I think that in terms of adding value to your network, sending someone info is OK, sending someone an opportunity is pretty cool, but introducing two people has a potentially unbounded upside.  And what’s even better than making an introduction is making sure your friends meet twice.  If you meet someone twice, that just went from random stranger to hey, you look familiar!  But of course, not everyone is down for hanging out with a bunch of your friends they don’t know, or have only met once, so…
  • Introduce people to connectors.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about connectors being the handful of people that tie together the social networks of the entire world.  Ever since I read The Tipping Point, it’s been obvious when I’ve met one.  I like to keep in touch with them too– they’re probably responsible (directly or indirectly) for most of the cool people I continue to meet.  And if you introduce one of your friends to a connector, not only does that person have the joy of meeting someone new, but they’re way more likely to continue to introduce your friend to cool people and opportunities.

So that’s networking.  Always adding value.  And when you need it, finding it piling at your feet.

Do you disagree?  Have you found otherwise?  Leave a comment.

  1. June 3, 2012
    Amber Smith

    Goodness I needed this right now! My lack of networking skills and lack of desire to do it, have really been playing a heavy roll in my life lately. I never really thought of it being something positive, as it simply being thoughtful of other people’s dreams and likes. It’s making your own social and business karma, not just kissing ass.
    I’ve never heard the term connectors before, but I know the person you describe and those are some of my favorite people!
    Thanks for the thoughts to chew on Erik!

  2. September 4, 2012

    Great post Erik. I am constantly networking with new people as it is part of my job. Sometimes it can be a drag to be repeating the same thing over and over about who you are and what you do. But you’ve hit on a very important point, when networking it is better to be focused on others rather than yourself. By doing so, you will reap the greatest rewards and in turn, others will start focusing on your dreams as well.

  3. October 20, 2012

    great ideas, your website it awesome

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  1. [...] past few years, I’ve done a week without clocks, a week with only one meal per day, a week of giving back to my network, and a stretch of a few months during which I recorded everything in my life that made me [...]

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