Building Your Network

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– by Jaime Willis
“Anything that is worth having is worth asking for.” – Melba Colgrove
Last December, I decided that one of my goals for 2010 was to lose weight. My goal was SMART – lose 60 pounds by my birthday in August. My goal was aligned with my core values and personal vision. Having lost (and gained) lots of weight over the years, I have a pretty good scientific understanding of what it would take for me to lose the weight (move more, eat less, eat better).
But, I knew I would need accountability to stick with my goal and I wanted a coach to help me learn more about strength training and toning, something I didn’t know a lot about. This is the point where a lot of people derail in their goal-getting. They have strong goals, they even have a good idea of what it will take to accomplish it, but they don’t properly activate their network.
How can you activate your own network to help you reach your goals?
Tell people your goal.

Really, it is that simple. Tell people what you are trying to accomplish. Tell lots of people. In my case, I started in December, before I had even started my weight loss goal, that I was going to be “frolicking” in 2010. (I say frolic, not diet, because I know that successful weight loss isn’t a temporary state of mind, but a “Food Related Lifestyle Choice” – FRLC, pronounced frolic.) I told my co-workers. I told my friends. I told my family. I told people who I knew would be supportive of my goal and would help keep me accountable to starting (and finishing) my goal.

Ask for specific help.

I knew I wanted to get serious about exercise and I chose to use a personal trainer. I set aside some of my income to pay for a trainer ahead of time, I researched online about what sort of things I wanted out of a trainer, and then I asked my network to tell me about their experiences with personal trainers.
Plenty of people have varied and conflicting advice about losing weight. By asking my network for specific advice, I was able to get the exact kind of help I needed to achieve my goal. A friend and co-worker recommended a trainer she knew. I met with the trainer, and he has been working with me ever since. And, I even got a discounted rate because I was referred by a friend!
Asking for specific help ensures a better response. A friend of mine recently asked her entire facebook audience if they wanted to buy her Chicago condo. While it is unlikely that there was a condo-buyer in the audience, I bet there were a lot of people who could have helped in other ways. (Find a successful Chicago real-estate agent. Find someone who can offer advice about staging homes. Find someone who knows how to market the property best. Find someone who knows about becoming a landlord and renting out the condo until the housing market improves). If you aren’t getting the result you’d hoped for, try asking a slightly different question.

Don’t be afraid to seek assistance.

Here’s the thing about networks — a great network is a diverse network. It’s pretty likely that most of your closest friends are similar to you — they went to similar schools, had similar upbringings, do similar jobs, etc. You want to reach beyond the comfort of your immediate circle and to people who know people you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. This is why I made sure to tell my coworkers about my weight loss goal. My office is fairly big, and we are pretty diverse in age, geography, educational experiences, etc. If I had just told my friends about my goal, I would not have the trainer I use today. I had to reach out to a diverse group of people to get my desired result.
Matt and I have been asking some big name folks to do interviews for our TGIF interview series on Fridays. At first, I was a bit scared to ask people way WAY outside of my network to do an interview. But we’ve had great responses from everyone we’ve asked so far! These responses have allowed me to feel more comfortable asking others to contribute. (If you want to do an TGIF interview, email me!)

Just do it!

I cannot stress enough how important it is to reach out to others when trying to achieve a goal. You will be flabbergasted at how “lucky” you are when you do so. Whenever I ask, people seem to have just the right connection I need to make, even when it seems like the people I told would have no experience or expertise in the area I am seeking help.
For example, when Matt recently threw down the goal gauntlet and decided to begin learning Korean, he had no idea that I have free access to Rosetta Stone that he can use to aid him in his goal. Another friend of mine began teaching a college course on communications and did not know that I had recently written a chapter of a curriculum on non-verbal communication that I was able to share with him.
The New Year is just a few days away–start networking now!

2 thoughts on “Building Your Network

  1. Jamie,

    First of all, congrats on reaching your goal! I enjoyed this article and I really like the point about asking your network, we don't do that enough!!!!

    Anthony Fasano

  2. Anthony:

    Thanks! Asking people for help is hard on our egos, I think, which makes it so difficult. But once you get over your own insecurities, it is amazing how eager everyone is to share their knowledge, connections, and even time and resources. Thanks for reading!


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