A couple of months back I had one of ‘those’ weekends. You know, the one that starts with an electricity bill so extraordinarily large that it could only be correct if you’ve been personally lighting and heating a small town. At the same time you’re having some building work done and it’s running way over budget, a business deal that you thought was done and dusted vanishes like smoke, and you suddenly find you have a crack in your molar that’s going to need a crown. … Oh, and the boiler you’ve been meaning to replace for the last five years suddenly springs a leak, bringing half the living room ceiling down.
One of those.
I called an old friend who popped round to help out, and he remarked that I seemed to be taking it all very well. He’d never seen me so calm in a crisis. That was good to know, but at the same time I couldn’t help feeling slightly irritated. The thoughts weren’t exactly screaming at me but they nevertheless made their presence felt: “Why did this have to happen now?” they whispered quietly in my ear, “Why did this have to happen to me?” I decided to smile through the pain. Everything would work out somehow, and there was nothing to be gained from beating myself up, or even giving it another thought. Might as well have a really nice day.
Years ago, when I started out as a salesman in the I.T. industry, I was quite a bit more cynical than I am now. I had learned all the techniques, all the ‘convincer strategies’, all the sales patter, and mastered most of it. Maybe that’s the clue to why I agreed with the statement: ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’. I’d unwittingly bought in to the idea that you had to be selling (or ‘closing’ as they say) pretty much 24/7. You were a salesman, so your job was to sell, right? And when you didn’t manage a sale, when the customer walked away, that was an opportunity missed. You’d blown it.
I was wrong. It was a long road to get to where I am now but there were some clear signposts along the way. One of them was from the motivational speaker, now sadly deceased, Zig Ziglar. It went like this:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Isn’t that perfect? It has stayed with me since I heard it all those years ago. It resonated precisely because I thought back then that it was all about what I knew. When my first true mentor, Paul Jacobs, offered to train me, teach me everything he knew about NLP, I was flattered but had to decline – there was no way I could afford his services back then. What he said next staggered me. He didn’t want paying. He saw some potential in me and wanted to help me develop it. I had never known such generosity.
Paul taught me more by that simple act of faith than almost anything else I learned as his mentee, and now I try, consciously, to follow his example. As Syd Banks once said: “I love to give things away. It fills me up with joy every single time.”
What does this have to do with my lousy weekend back in October? Well, that same friend, actually an old school friend, who had come over to commiserate, reminded me of another mutual friend we’d been at school with, who happened now to be working as a plumber. Why not call him up? As it happened I’d stayed in touch with this guy over the years so was very happy to call, and the problem was fixed very quickly. All the other problems that cropped up that weekend got resolved just as easily. So here’s my simple message to you, on the eve of another year…
Yes, I know that’s pretty standard advice, but hear me out because I don’t mean it quite like some of those personal development gurus mean it. What I mean is – try to network with no agenda, just because it feels good to do it, and not just in the marketplace but in the world, to people everywhere, not just potential customers. Forget whether you can make a sale from your networking and do it as a matter of course, as a habit, for fun. Because you never know how those random acts of generosity are going to rebound, in a good way, on your business or your life. I promise you they will.
Make 2017 the year you stopped wanting things from others and instead started to ask them:
‘What can I do to help you?