Stand Out

Being remarkable in a networking environment is not rocket science. Be friendly, vulnerable, funny, curious, and eager to help without getting stuck in one place.

As you continue to show up, you’ll learn from others and also learn more about yourself. You’ll be able to ask great questions and be adaptable to any conversation. You’ll need to share your work less, which will allow you to make more introductions. This will make you stand out as a connector.

Ready to shake things up? Avoid the temptation to ask the most common question at networking events: “So, what do you do?” Instead, consider more interesting ways to get people talking.

– How are you feeling?
– How do you like to spend your time?
– What does a day inside your office involve?
– What mindset inspires your best work?
– What’s a recent project you enjoyed working on?
– Are there any roadblocks you’re working through?
– Is there anything I can help you with right now?
– Would you do this work if money weren’t a factor?
– What did you do before your current role?

You only have a moment to make a good impression. It never hurts to throw in a specific topic to help people remember you. Avoid small talk like the weather. Also, family means everything to most people, but avoid going too far down that rabbit hole. Here are a few creative conversation starters to sprinkle in.

– What are your superpowers?
– Where did you travel to last?
– Have you ever been a mentor or an advisor?
– What are you reading or listening to right now?
– How would you describe the internet to a child?
– If you’re a pro wrestler, what’s your entrance song?
– Is there anything that may surprise me about you?
– What’s an interesting paradox you‘ve answered?
– How do you define success? How about happiness?
– Have you ever regretted not doing something?

When it’s time to move on, there is also an art to exiting a conversation. This is handy when conversations have gone on too long. One tactic is to bring more people into the conversation. Kindly introduce everyone to each other. You then have the option to stick around or excuse yourself. Even if you leave the chat, your energy will remain a part of that new conversation as you mingle elsewhere. If you’re at a networking event, another approach is to joke that it’s time for both of you to go meet more new people. This lighthearted suggestion eliminates any awkwardness.

If you’re the one holding conversations too long, you’ll know it when people try similar exiting tactics on you. To improve your relationship-building skills, stop draining the energy from each interaction. Be cognizant of how long you hold onto each conversation. Abandon the idea that everything must happen in one exchange. Even if it feels abrupt, don’t be afraid to move away from conversations before they feel complete. Ending interactions a bit early leaves room for more conversation next time. This creates a subconscious gap to fill and therefore more reasons to reconnect.

Show Up

Surrounding yourself with fellow students, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs will keep you motivated. The goal is to find a balanced collection of community events. Commit to those who complement your life while seeking out new groups that make you nervous. This combination will connect you with people who can support, but also expand, your world.

Once you lock in on a few groups that can push you to be your best, show up. It sounds easy, but consistently showing up takes dedication. When we commit to showing up, we are being generous with our time, and generosity leads to trust. As trust surges, more meaningful interactions occur. This will increase the value you give and get from the community, which makes it easier to show up.

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Whether it’s a tribe you trust or a brand new experience, don’t waste your time by attending an event just to say you were there.

When you arrive, say hello to everyone you know. After catching up, shift the focus to meeting new people. For a jump-start, ask a friend to introduce you to someone you don’t know. If that’s not an option, go mix it up alone.

Be bold enough to enter existing conversations without an invitation. One way to do this in style is find a small group of people talking. Wait until you’re noticed, then casually say, “Hey, folks, whatcha chattin’ about?” Be respectful and prepare to expand on whatever they’re talking about. The group will soon want to know why you decided to join their conversation. It’s tempting to use this moment to talk about yourself.

Instead, surprise them by not trying to take over the conversation. Ask a question or share an intriguing thought that relates to the current discussion. The objective is to deflect the focus back toward the group. This deflection will weave you into the fabric of the discussion. You’ve now become a part of the group’s conversation. This will provide a chance to share your story with a more natural flow. Even as you explain your work, remind yourself that everyone loves talking about themselves. By letting them do so, you’ll be less as an intruder and more of interested addition to any discussion.

Perhaps you’re in a group and someone decides to join you? Be quick to expand the circle and compliment their initiative. Get curious and allow your inclusive vibe to create yet another new connection.

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Saying “yes” leads to more adventure, as the universe rewards our ambition.

Lone Wolves

A common misconception is that you must have a team to be successful. There is a limit to your own capacity, but it is possible to build rewarding endeavors all by yourself. Solving complex problems may require co-founders and a larger team, but your passionate dedication is all you need to get started.

Lasting energy is required to forge this path, but without the need to answer to anyone, you can stay nimble and be more efficient by eliminating internal delays. To avoid burnout, you must stay mindful of your personal bandwidth. Self-awareness will help you avoid market disconnects, The Headline Trap, and relationship problems as well.

To coordinate new initiatives into your career portfolio, consider how the project connects to your current work. Clear overlaps can be good, but can also cause unwanted tension. A project less related to your existing work actually makes everything easier to shuffle. Even when projects affect different industries, it’s still you making things happen. The option to build into what motivates you in different ways will energize your work on all fronts. Action on one project will provide fresh momentum for others. Learn when to say yes and no, then wisely activate your time on each front.

As a lone wolf, it’s easy to go hard toward your own dream, but know when you need help. The freedom of working alone is within reach, but execution still requires collaboration. The world is full of friends, community allies, and contractors eager to help. Outside assistance may slow you down, but it won’t dilute equity, and it may be the key to a new reality.

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Need someone to bounce ideas off of? Let’s have coffee.

If you venture out alone, prepare for intoxicating highs and crushing loneliness. The consuming nature of building by yourself will incite grit, but don’t let it blind you. It’s easy to build too far into the wrong direction without a team. This is why community and customer discovery are even more important for lone wolves.

Travel

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been interesting to experience “normal” things for what feels like the first time. Along with hugging family members, having fun with friends and returning to in-person business events, the opportunity to travel again felt like something to riff on this week.

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It’s easier to stay in one place, but resist the urge to settle.

Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you rich.

Life outside your comfort zone shapes a wider worldview. Different people, cultures, and economies help us understand what’s possible. This expansion of the mind molds a potent entrepreneur. Saying yes to adventure creates new layers of entrepreneurial vision and intelligence. The enhanced vision unlocks unseen opportunities, while added intelligence makes it possible to work with more types of people. Travel allows entrepreneurs to widen their understanding and therefore make a deeper impact in any market.

Stay efficient with all your virtual meetings, but say yes to that in-person meeting once in awhile. Attend that next trade show and parlay your business travel with personal adventures to remind yourself that we work to play. Here are a few travel tricks to enjoy the ride even more.

  • Consider trusted traveler programs to bypass long lines. Costs are minimal and you’ll appreciate it every time you waltz through airport security.
  • Leverage free travel reward programs.
  • Nobody will take your assigned seat, so be last to board a flight. Boarding last keeps you out of the flying tube longer. It also grants you a free pass to choose your seat if it’s clear the flight won’t be full.
  • Speaking of empty flights, airlines sometimes buy passengers from other airlines. When traveling alone, watch for overbooked situations to sell your seat back to the airline that tried to buy it at a discount. Like most negotiations, a gate agent’s first offer is never the best. Assuming you’re willing to take a future flight, see how long you can make the airline sweat without another passenger snagging the rising offer.
  • Elevation makes us all feel successful. This is why we like flying, rooftop bars, skyscrapers, and presidential suites. If you like the best view when you’re staying in a hotel, request the top floor. Upon arrival, ask the receptionist to hook you up. Some places will even allow you to tour different rooms to select your favorite. Snobby? Maybe. Will you be glad once you settle into a spot with an epic view? Absolutely.
  • Plan ahead by connecting with people who will be where you’re going or who live where you’re headed. This gives you a chance to parlay your trip with more meaningful meetings and additional activities that add value beyond the original purpose of your visit.
  • Bring a book you plan to leave behind.
  • Travel light and stay out of your room.

39

It’s my 39th birthday!

I love using birthdays to reflect on what was learned, trying something new, or appreciating memorable moments from the past year. I also like to craft recaps (e.g. 33rd birthday / 2014 recap) for my future self to read. This year, YDNTB is quite the relic to always remember this moment in my life so instead of a personal narrative highlighting the past, let’s lean into the future by exploring the idea of retirement.

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“Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for an imaginary tomorrow.” –Naval

I always told myself I wanted to retire in my thirties. Financial advisors are quick to remind us that the golden years of middle class leisure will require around $1 million in savings, but perhaps there’s more to this story.

Yes, the traditional path to retirement is all about earning enough money to cover the burn rate of your life. A second option to realizing financial freedom is to reduce your burn rate to zero, but not many people are cut out to be a monk.

I prefer early retirement in the form of leveraging what you love to do. Similar to what I describe as Career Nirvana, peaceful satisfaction can be achieved when you do something you love so much that it’s not about the money anymore. This doesn’t mean the work stops or that the responsibilities of life fade away. It’s quite the opposite, as more opportunities tend to present themselves when you figure out what you’re best at and map that to what society wants. This forges an abundance of innovative energy you can’t buy. As you collaborate with those who feed off this energy, you soon realize that nobody can compete with being you.

As you build towards such transcendence and realize that a neon future awaits us all, I’ll close with a toast. May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. Cheers!

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Good, better, best;
Never let it rest,
‘Til your good is better,
And your better is best.