Don't Network, Make Friends

by Paul Hudson

Growing up, it always seemed that the pompous assh*le was the one with the largest number of friends. He (or she) was the one who was more aggressive than the others. He would crack inappropriate jokes, poking fun at those that weren’t deemed “cool enough” to be respected. It was this lack of respect for others and for authority that brought these jerks to the center of popularity circles. It’s funny how things change once we leave the nest and realize that even a bird cannot take flight without the support of the wind under its wings.

The adult world is impossible to conquer alone — friends need to be made. While in high school, being a prick got you further than one would expect, treating others like crap in the real world won’t get you anywhere. Something happens to people once they graduate college — sometimes even earlier, when they graduate high school. Once people consider themselves to be adults, they begin to expect to be treated with respect—they begin to respect themselves and expect the same from others. The asshole’s reign is over.

People often ask me how it is that I do so much. I just explain to them that I have had some amazing opportunities come my way and that I couldn’t let any of them slip by. I had — and still do have — a choice to either grab life by the balls and make things happen for myself or kick it and waste time like most people my age. The question that always comes after is: how did all these opportunities come your way?

The first time someone asked me this, I had to take a moment to think. When you are in the midst of things, you are too busy doing that you don’t stop to consider how it is that you got to where you are — you get caught up in it all. I ran through all the jobs I ever had, all the opportunities that ever came my way and arrived at one conclusion. It turns out that I owe everything to friends. Every job I ever held down was thanks to a friend hooking me up. Every opportunity that came my way didn’t arrive at my feet as an offering from the heavens or from Lady Luck. I had to actively play my part — I had to go out, network, make friends and prove to them that I am someone worth knowing.

Life brings about opportunities, so in order to have them come your way, you have to do your best to actually live. You need to put yourself out there and interact with the world and with the people that inhabit it. The best advice: go out for drinks, talk, laugh, mingle, make friends, take contact info. The only reason that I am working with Elite Daily today is because I ran into Eddie Cuffin at a bar. The only reason I have managed a handful of restaurants before I turned 23 is by going out and making friends — and drinking, drinking has helped.

It’s not to say that you should go out and get trashed; that would be stupid. But going out and talking to people while you’re both sipping on some whiskey allows for thinning of the ice that needs to be broken. People are much more open to being open about themselves and what they do under the influence of a few martinis. Maybe it’s because my family is from Europe…but bonding over drinks is in my nature — and it works wonders.

When networking, the goal is not to simply introduce yourself to people. I don’t know about you, but most of the people that I meet, I won’t remember their names the second after they introduce themselves. Introductions are not enough. Small talk is not enough. In order to legitimately add a reliable contact to your network, you need to connect with them. You need to have them believe that the two of you could potentially become friends. People do business with those that they like, those that they believe they can trust.

If you start pitching to someone within the first 10 minutes that you meet them, they are likely to feel that you are only speaking to them in order to get something from them — people do not like to feel that they are being used. Sure, your goal most definitely is to get the contacts that you need in order to grow your business, but they don’t need to know that.

Even if they do know, it shouldn’t be obvious; there’s no reason to flaunt your true motives. From their perspective you are just a smart, interesting, ambitious individual who knows how to have a good time and is great company. You want to become the person that everyone wants to bring to the party. Notice that you don’t want to invite the opportunist, but rather the guy everyone enjoys talking to.

It’s all about holding a conversation. You want the person to feel that you are genuinely interested in what it is that they have to say — and because you love to meet new people and find out what they are all about (which I feel happens almost naturally when you put yourself out there often enough) you are interested in what they have to say.

It sometimes can be difficult to break through the awkwardness that sometimes presents itself. The best method is to change your mood to a more upbeat one — not overwhelmingly upbeat, but upbeat enough that the person notices that you are actually interested in the conversation that you are having. Ask questions and, most importantly, allow the other to speak and make sure to listen to what they have to say. Then ask them to go into greater detail. Once you start talking about details of their lives, they will open up to you and begin asking you questions.

With enough interesting and funny anecdotes (and a few beers), you have just made a friend. Who is she more likely to contact when she needs services that you provide? You, a person who she just spent the last hour explaining how her children have become such a headache? Or that other guy that spoke to her about the products his company offers for seven minutes?

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