Expand Your Network, Not Just Your Mind

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another

Proverbs 27:17

As we strive to become the best we can possibly be, there is one area which is often overlooked. We read journals, books and blogs, we listen to audiobooks and podcasts and we study for recognised qualifications to get us closer to our goals. We pay great attention to these areas and make sure that they are working for us and providing value, asking ourselves;

  • Is this course of study still relevant and meeting my needs? Will it still get me to where I want to be?
  • Is the material I read or listen to relevant? What am I actually learning or absorbing? Of this, how much am I actually applying to my life?
  • Am I making the best use of my time?

So, what is this area which we overlook? OUR NETWORKS. The people who we choose to spend time with, and whose influence we allow into our lives. While it is debatable how much you can learn and apply to your own life by reading the biographies of famous people, this is one thing which they all have in common and sets them apart from others. After all, almost everybody has strong desires and can develop a strong work ethic for any task which interests them enough. Successful people, however, also have strong networks which inspire them to keep striving for growth.

It’s an ego boost to surround yourself with people who have not yet achieved your level of success. While you could do much to help these people, and learn much from them, this is a scenario which is likely to breed comfort and complacency, which are 2 of the enemies of success. Simply put, if you are surrounded by well-meaning individuals who encourage you to stay as you are, you will stagnate and stop growing. If, on the other hand, you spend time in the company of people who push you and inspire you to keep going, the possibilities are endless. Which would you rather have, stagnation or possibilities? There are a couple of great ways to expand your network which have worked for me which i’d like to share;

  • Professional Networking. Professional bodies hold regular events which are open to most members, and are a great way to meet and learn from successful figures within your chosen industry. Aim to attend at least one talk or networking event per month, and engage with as many people as you can. Over time you will build a list of contacts, who may also become friends.
  • Clubs. What is your area of interest outside of work? What are you passionate about? Are there any clubs which meet near you, which you could join? Cigars are my guilty pleasure and I am a member of several groups which meet monthly. As well as sampling cigars and spirits in often luxurious surroundings, this is also an opportunity to spend time talking to, and learning from, extremely successful people in a range of industries and from differing backgrounds. Cigars are not for everyone, but the same applies to all kinds of groups whether their passion is Harry Potter or classic cars. Above all, it’s great for introverts who struggle when meeting new people. Because it’s a group which has a shared interest, there is no need for any awkward icebreakers.
  • Social Networking. No, not Facebook or Snapchat. Apps like LinkedIn and Shapr can help you meet new and interesting people, while on the go, with whom you could share experiences and advice.
  • Mentoring. Whether it’s for a personal or professional purpose, a mentor can motivate, support and guide you. Furthermore, a mentor can help you to improve your networking skills and push you to attend meetings and events which best meet your needs.

You will only learn, develop, grow and make real progress in life once you leave your comfort zone. Learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. If you look around a room and see people who are more accomplished and successful than you, then you are in the right room. Do these situations make you feel uncomfortable and awkward? Good! Use this to fuel your inner fire and strive to raise yourself to their level. Use your networking and communication skills to learn from them. Rather than close up and hide in a corner, make the most of this opportunity. You may very well end up talking to your next investor, mentor, business partner or boss. You won’t know unless you try, and you have to be in the presence of successful and accomplished people in order for this to even be possible.

I am not saying that we should distance ourselves from our friends and family. This would be ridiculous as well as damaging to our happiness and confidence. Unless they are negative influences, and holding you back. My advice is that we seek opportunities, preferably at least once a week, to spend time in the company of people more knowledgeable or successful than ourselves as they could provide a wealth of advice and a healthy dose of inspiration.

Surround yourself, and learn from, accomplished people and sooner or later their good habits will rub off on you.

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