Everyone has competition. Everyone, including you. Knowing this, it begs the question: What makes you unique amongst your competition?
Think about it. This question is important. And your answer to it has lots of important implications. Like, how does a customer or client select you in a crowded marketplace?
So, know the answer as to “why you?” Is it price? That is, is the cost of what you offer lower than anyone else? Is it quality? Is there something about what you have that is more durable or better refined or some other characteristic that creates real and lasting value? Is there a patented technology, proprietary process or specialized education or background? Is there something that the others can’t readily duplicate?
So, why you? Whatever it is or however you define it, you need an answer to that question. Moreover, you need to be ready to communicate it in a clear, concise and confident fashion.
During the 2019 TEDx program in Detroit, co-organizer Terry Bean briefly took the stage. In the allotted few minutes he shared this one big idea: We all have the ability to cast a positive stone, creating ripples that benefit others.
In addition, he also shared these eight ideas for casting positive stones.
Hold the door for someone;
Celebrate important milestones with the people you love;
Smile, or better yet, make someone else smile;
Lend an ear by being there for those who need you;
Shine the light on people doing excellent work;
Pay it forward with something as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee;
Connect the people you know with the people they need to know; and,
Bean’s list is not just a simple one; it’s also a list of little things that you can do each and every day to create positive ripples in the world.
Do you think that saying you’re sorry makes you appear weak? If so, you’d be wrong.
In that moment, no doubt you’re vulnerable. You’ve surrendered yourself to another, admitting you’re flawed and that somehow that harmed them. And, mostly importantly, you’ve revealed that you feel bad and will endeavor for it to never happen again.
The curious thing about this vulnerability, however, is that it ultimately elevates you in the eyes of others. Think about it. This act of contrition – facing a client, friend or employee and saying, “I am truly sorry” – is not an easy thing to do. It takes tremendous courage. And this courage will earn you a heightened level of respect in the eyes of others. In short, this will bolster how people come to know, like and trust you.
So never be afraid to say, “I apologize.” This statement is more aligned with demonstrating your strength and self-confidence than exposing any sort of weaknesses.
So, while meeting new people is always an important part of networking, remember there is a tremendous advantage to networking with familiar names and faces. What is it? These people already have a relationship with you. And that is a wonderful head start to productive and effective networking. All you need to do is capitalize on it.
Given that, focus energy on connecting with the people you already know and reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances. Get caught up on their lives. Think of ways you can help them. Share with them about your professional endeavors. And remember to ask for assistance.
In short, build on the relationships you already have.
In his book, A Life Best Lived, master business coach Danny Creed shares a counterintuitive insight: “There is an old Zen teaching that says in order to be successful, we must slowdown in order to speed up.”
Creed goes on to explain that often you become your own worst enemy by continuing to do what you’ve been doing. By taking the time, however, to slow down and refrain from the constant grind, perhaps just a half a step, you can honestly analyze what you’ve been doing.
From this slower pace you gain an understanding and acceptance that what you’re doing is either not effective or, worse yet, actually undermining your efforts.
With this insight, you can alter your course or tweak your approach. From there, you can not only get back the half of step you lost but also pick up the pace going forward. As Creed implies, often the best way to speed up is to slow down first.
Imagine this: You’ve got a daughter who’s been asked out on a date. The date arrives a few minutes late, toots the horn and expects her to run out to the car. Then she has another date with someone else. This person arrives a tad early and comes up to the door with flowers, candy and a willingness to meet you. Here’s the question: Who do you encourage her to go out with again?
The answer is almost rhetorical. You can see when people are being treated well and when they’re not. You know when you’re being treated well and when you’re not. You simply need to keep that in mind as you interact with others.
It’s no big secret, but if you look to build strong, long-term relationships, you need to treat those in your network in a fashion that will make them want to connect with you again and again.
Growing up, Travis Roy had one goal: To play Division I college hockey like his father. In the fall of 1995, his dreams were realized as he enrolled at Boston University on a scholarship to play hockey for the Terriers.
Unfortunately, 11 seconds into the first shift of his collegiate career, Roy took an odd fall headlong into the boards, cracking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebra. This paralyzed him from the neck down. His college career and hockey dream were over.
However, he vowed that it would not end his life. Roy went on to graduate from Boston University in four years. He became an author. He became a sought-after motivational speaker. And he became a tireless advocate for people with spinal cord injuries.
Travis Roy’s story offers a lesson. Yes, life will hand you setbacks. It might even give you tragedies to deal with. Despite that, don’t stop forging ahead and making a great impact on the world.
As speaker and personal development influencer Lewis Howes reminds in his book, The School of Greatness, “A powerful vision emerges when we couple our dreams with a set of clear goals.”
As Howes implies, there is nothing wrong with dreams, but without goals your ability to live those dreams is impaired. And goals are great, if not vital. But if you don’t have them tied to an underlying dream, the inspiration to see your goals through will be lacking.
Without both a dream and the goals to achieve it, Howes states, “you are apt to wander in a clueless and purposeless fog.”
Don’t get stuck in this state. Stop to envision the dreams you have for yourself, both personally and professionally. Then attach to those dreams clear and realistic goals. After all, the dreams will fuel your efforts with purpose. And your goals will provide clues as to how you can see them through.
The best compliment that you can receive has nothing to do with your intelligence or insight. It has nothing to do with what you achieve or how hard you work. The greatest compliment you can receive is that you are reliable.
Why? It’s simple. Reliability is the foundation upon which all our talents and characteristics rest.
Reliability is everything. A great work ethic will get you nowhere unless you do what you say. Wonderful insight or superior intellect is critically handicapped by an inability to honor your word. Reliability goes to the heart of establishing others’ trust in you.
So, if someone says you are being smart, say thanks. If they call you a hard worker, nod in appreciation. If you are told you’ve got great insight, smile in gratitude.
But if someone says they can depend on you, then do all three. Because when they do, they’re indicating you are reliable. And that the highest compliment of all.
Networking is about helping others and then trusting that in time they will help you in return. By that definition, it starts with you. You need to take the initiative in doing for others and you need to become patient in waiting for those efforts to come back to you.
When the attention turns to you and others ask how they can help you, don’t get consumed asking for “game changing” opportunities. You know, the game winning “home runs”. While these are wonderful, they tend to be very few and far between. And unless your network has one readily in sight, they will quickly stop trying to find one.
Rather focus your requests on little things. Things that are of benefit and relatively easy to find. These “base hits” might not be exciting. Over time, however, one by one these seemingly mundane acts serve to collectively move the needle. And in the end, this strategy will be most productive for you.