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Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty : The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need
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Format: Paperback, 320pp.
Publisher: Currency Doubleday
Pub. Date: February 1999
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Item No: 9780385485463
Doin' What Comes Unnaturally
Fred was one of my schoolmates from fourth grade all through college.
He was a loner, a total introvert, painfully shy, with all the baggage that comes with it--the dead-fish handshake, the downcast eyes that never quite met yours, the halting, barely audible stabs at conversation.
Still, Fred was sincere, honest, hardworking, a thoroughly decent person.
I'm sure Fred went through high school without ever having a date. I can remember how, on graduation day, many of us trolled the halls to corral our classmates into signing our yearbooks. We competed with each other to see who could fill the most pages with reminiscences and tributes from their friends.
But not Fred. Once again, too timid, too shy. It would be a force job for Fred to go up to a classmate and request this easy favor.
Fast forward to college.
Somehow, Fred managed to get into a fraternity. Maybe it was because he never had a bad word to say about anyone. Maybe he was a "legacy." Maybe it was because Fred decided it was something he wanted badly enough to come out of his cocoon and really go for.
What was it that changed him? Only The Shadow knows.
Whatever it was, whatever it took, a new Fred began to emerge.
By our last year in college, he was unrecognizable from the Fred of our high school years.
He had become popular and gregarious. Fred's "lost years" in high school had not been entirely wasted. He seemed to know more about swing music and jazz than anyone else on campus, probably from listening to it alone in his room. He also developed a flair for dancing, a considerable social advantage.
After college, Fred and several of his fraternity brothers formed a partnership in the automotive business. They became very successful.
We all know people like Fred. Some of them never manage to shake off their early problems.
For some people, networking is as natural and instinctive as breathing. We all know people who are self-confident, radiate optimism, make friends easily, and seem to glide through life on winged feet.
Not many of them will be readers of this book.
Why should they be? They do this stuff without even having to think about it. They network with their alarm clocks when they wake up in the morning.
This book--and particularly this chapter--is addressed to the rest of us, the Freds of the world, those not quite so sure of ourselves, perhaps a bit shy, even timid. We're not out there bowling over everyone we meet with our dazzling smiles or brilliant conversation. We're not even out there bowling.
For most people networking is a learned behavior, like learning to swim. It is a gradual--and often painful, even scary--process of trial and error, small incremental steps, and finally a few breakthroughs.
Fortunately, there are several tried and true techniques for overcoming this Fear of Trying.
1. Practice "let's pretend."
Why do we procrastinate? Why are we shy? We fear failure, and we define failure as falling short of perfection. Since perfection is impossible to achieve, we are conflicted and act tentatively, or don't act at all.
Plato said each thing or idea has a perfect form. While we can never achieve the ideal form, we should attempt to come as close as we can by observing and emulating the characteristics of the ideal.
Let's segue from the ancient Greeks to the modern angst-ridden networker. There is someone you want to meet. You have done your homework, you are aware of an affinity or a shared experience with this person, but you are afraid to make the first move.
Why not play a game with yourself? The name of the game is "Let's Pretend."
Ask yourself, "What would the ideal networker do in this situation?"
Pretend you are that person. And do it.
If you are able to do that, you can reinvent yourself.
By pretending you are what you are not, you actually can become what you have pretended to be.
2. Adopt a role model.
What's the difference between this suggestion and the Aristotle gambit?
Your ideal is real, not imagined.
You're not asking yourself what the perfect person would do, you've attached yourself to a successful networker and you're committed to studying his or her techniques.
In the best of all possible worlds, your role models also can become your mentors, helping you, advising you, guiding you, even lending you their network as you build your own.
For the shy or anxious person, this method has two advantages:
It takes only one good connection to start you on your way.
Your natural shyness and inexperience can help rather than hinder you. As you gain confidence and skills, your role model will take pride in your progress and be motivated to do even more for you.
3. Take lessons.
You're taking one now, as you read this book, so you're already a believer in the learning process. There are other, real-life educational opportunities that are effective for overcoming shyness and inexperience.
The first real networking school I signed up for after I got out of college was Toastmasters. It proved so valuable to me that here I am many years later being paid handsomely as a public speaker, even though my main thrust is still running my business.
Toastmasters is not just about making speeches. It's about doing your homework, self-confidence, appearance, and becoming an interesting person and a valuable resource to others. In other words, Toastmasters can help you gain and polish the tools to become a successful networker.
The Dale Carnegie schools are designed to achieve similar goals. I'm a graduate, and I can tell you from my own experience that they are masters at instilling personal confidence, polish, poise, communication, and networking skills in their students. They've been around a long time--an excellent indication that they are getting results.
And if you hope one day to be a professional public speaker, or if you just want to sound like one, there is no better organization to join than the National Speakers Association (NSA), headquartered in Tempe, Arizona.
I am a member and collectively we speak to 20 million people a year. If you're looking to hire a speaker for an event, they're the ones to call. In fact, I believe this organization is so worthwhile that if you don't feel you got your money's worth the first year, send me a copy of your canceled check and I'll give you a "Harvey Mackay Scholarship"--the second year's membership is on me. NSA can be reached at (602) 968-2552 or via the Worldwide Web at www.NSASpeaker.org. They can explain to you about national membership and/or put you in touch with your local chapter.
4. Keep taking lessons.
Graduation is not the end of your education. It's the foundation, the launching pad, the beginning. Unless you keep your batteries charged, they will run down. For an ongoing source of inspiration and motivation, I recommend subscribing to Norman Vincent Peale's publication Positive Living. A similar publication in more condensed form is Bits & Pieces.
5. Join up.
Just about any group offers possibilities for making contacts and achieving personal growth: Dancing. Choir. Coin collecting. Horseback riding. Art appreciation. Theater going. Antique shopping. Politics. Great books. Wine. Food.
6. Have a little faith.
Dale Carnegie probably summed it up best: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one."
The more you exercise your networking muscles, the stronger they get--and the easier networking becomes.