Stories change everything. A story can be the sole difference between you getting a sale, a new connection, a new job or perhaps even the man or woman of your dreams. Let me explain what I mean with a short story.
In October of this past year on of my brothers got married. For the groomsman, he had picked out some suits. Like the many times before, when I got the suit back from the tailor, multiple pockets were still sewn shut. I grabbed a little pocket knife that I had and cut the thread so I could actually use the pockets. I figured that there would be others who’s suits where in a similar disarray, so I brought the knife on the wedding day. Low and behold I was correct. The best man, a guy that has known our family for decades, ended up needing to use the knife. When I finished up he handed it right back without a second glance at the knife. As he handed the knife back my other brother who was also one of the groomsman spotted the knife.
His face lit up with joy because it was one of the knives that he had brought back after serving overseas near the Middle East. As soon as the best man heard that this knife was a gift from my brother, everything about it changed. He asked to see it again and he held it with respect and awe as my brother, who gifted the knife, was able to tell a little about it and his time in the army
As I said, stories change everything. They turn an ordinary knife into something worth taking a second glance at. Stories are so important that before we go into any of those moments that could be life changing, we need to make sure that we are prepared. Prepared not just with general background information on the other person or company, but prepared with a story that clearly illustrates why using you, or what you offer, is a game changer.
I’m pretty sure it’s a universal law that we all love the sound of our own voice… I mean I know I do. I love hearing my sweet sweet tumbra as I drone on about things I’m passionate about. As true as this is, I also realize it is the worst thing for me to do to build relationships and really be able to share in people stories.
I have recently been challenged to shut up and listen, and I’m doing my absolute best to heed this advice. Side story: One of my greatest fears is to have silence in a conversation. I mean I literally used to pray Proverbs 29:25 “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust in the Lord means safety” over and over again as a mantra. I would pray that over conversations saying to myself that it is dumb to worry about silence or lack of conversation, and that I could trust that the Lord would bless our time and make it beneficial. I still deal with this fear to this day.
Back to the post: I have had some great advice given to me that I believe will help me conquer the above mentioned fear and make me a better human being, father, husband, friend, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. To put the advice simply, it is to ask an intriguing question and to shut up and let the other person talk. If I really want to go one step further, it would be to take a vow of silence for a day, or at a networking event, so I can give the other as much runway as they need to talk. One last thing that I have started doing is bringing a little notebook and pen that I can jot down thoughts that come into my mind so I don’t have to interrupt. Please, if we ever have the opportunity to talk, hold me to this.
A couple questions to end on. Are you a fellow interrupter? Do you equally love the sound of your sweet sultry voice? If so, take up this challenge and start to listen more. Lean into the silence. Create better questions. Learn to listen, actually listen, and give the other person the gift of hearing their own voice / talking about themselves and what is interesting to them. When you give them this gift, it’s actually quite amazing how much you learn about them and figure out how you can both benefit from the relationship.
Ok ok… this title is kinda click bate because I don’t actually mean you should say no to networking, but that you should say no to the networking events that don’t work for you.
When I started my first job search I felt that I had to go to all the events I could find and talk to as many people trying to show how amazing I was. As I’ve experienced more and read some interesting books, I realize that that was probably the worst thing I could have done for myself in that season. When I just went to events and chatted up everyone, I wasn’t comfortable or in my element. Yes, I love people, building relationships and sharing in stories, but I was not in a good place to do that. Every conversation I made it about me, and as wonderful as I think I am… that was a big turn off for others and pushed them away from helping me.
Again, it isn’t about saying no to networking, but just saying no to networking in a way that doesn’t work for you. That doesn’t mean never getting out of your comfort zone, but it does mean figuring a way to be the most conferrable at those events. Bring a wingman / wingwoman and don’t fly solo. No reason to take on the sucky world of networking by yourself. Figure out the events that bring you life. That may mean you say no to the cocktail hour and say yes to a business book club, toastmasters, or local crew you get brunch with and gab about the latest industry trends.
Whatever puts you in the best state of mind and puts you most at ease is what you need to do. When you are anxious and out of your comfort zone, people sense it and instead of remembering you for something good, they remember to stay away from you and end up never helping. Please, do us all a favor and get to know yourself so you can say no yourself to those opportunities that would do you more harm then good.
I had surgery earlier this year and because of that I got out of my morning routine. That was nice for a season, but it was not going to work long term. I wasn’t waking up early enough to get all that I needed done before I headed off to work, and I also didn’t feel as ready or energized for the day even though I was technically getting more sleep. I knew I needed to get back into the swing of things and here are the two ways I did it.
1. I stopped hitting the snooze and just got up.
2. I started keeping the same wake up time, even on the weekends
The best thing we can do in the mornings is to just get up when our alarm goes off. I know, it feels soooooo good to push the snooze button and get ten more minutes of shuteye, but hitting the snooze is actually bad for you. When you “go back to sleep” for those extra few minutes it starts up a new sleep cycle, one you won’t finish, and it actually puts you in a groggy state of mind. Do yourself a favor and just get up.
This second tip is a tough one. I mean why wouldn’t you want to get more sleep on the weekends? You don’t have to get up for work, so what is the point? Our bodies are built for rhythm and schedule. When we break patterns and routines it can throw us off of our game. Plus, when we hit Monday and have to wake up a couple hours early, it throws us out of wack and it takes us a day or few to get back into the swing of our mourning routine.
If you start implementing these two small tips, I know that you will be more refreshed and be better prepared to crush the day ahead of you. These are two tough ones to implement because I know how much we all love our sleep. When we start implementing these steps, we feel more refreshed and our mind is ready to start going from the moment we get up. This allows us to hit the day running and go after our to-do’s instead of rolling around our bed wiping the crusties from our eyes.
Two words that are often forgotten in any line of work are “Thank you.” Now after a project, contract, or event is completed we may half hazardly throw out those words, but that is what everyone does.
Some people think it is an overrated idea and that a text message or email sends the same message, but that just isn’t true. People value what takes time and costs more and a text or an email doesn’t send that type of message. On the other hand, a hand-written note that you had to purchase an envelope, card, and stamp lets the other person know that they are worth your time and money.
I also believe that with whatever you do, you need to be you 100%. I don’t mean for you to use this fact as a scapegoat saying that “I’m not someone who sends cards.” I bring up this fact because I want you to use a little flair or embellishment when you send these cards. When picking out stamps from the post office, don’t just do the typical ones. Look through their booklets and pick out something fun, creative, or whimsical. Pick out a stamp that you think represents you or that you think is pretty cool. If you want to go one step further, you can also find a card design that fits your personality or you can have customized cards emblazoned with your name or logo. What I am trying to get across here is that even in the small details you need to let your personality shine through.
Now that you have got your cards and stamps in order, the most important reason why you need to send thank you cards is because the world doesn’t have enough of these floating around. How many times have you read a book that changed your life, heard a speech that moved you, or had a conversation that shifted everything in your worldview? When these moments happen, we need to let the other person know. If it’s an author, find an address to send them the card and mail off a thank you note letting them know how their book specifically impacted you. If it was a speech that you heard or a conversation that you had, find out a good address and mail off that thank you card.
As you start to make this a habit, it is amazing how all of this good that you are putting into the world will come back to you. The connections that you can make and the opportunities that these notes can bring about are life giving for not only the receiver, but for you also. Please, take this encouragement and start letting others know that you care greatly about them and their contribution in your life.