I could ﬁll volumes about chance meetings that have changed people's lives, led to jobs, business opportunities, partnerships, new ideas . . . all because people sought other people with similar interests.
The secret is to seek them out.
Every time I'm in a line, on a plane, at a sporting event, wherever ... I introduce myself. I've met some of my best customers on a plane, resulting in millions of dollars in business. You always have to have your antennae up.
I think this is one of the biggest mistakes people make. They don't introduce themselves when they have an opportunity. It seems like no one talks to anyone anymore. Social media is a wonderful tool, but it shouldn't be the only tool in your toolbox. There is no substitute for personal interaction.
You've heard me expound on the notion that our lives basically change in two ways - the books we read and the people we meet. I hammer that message home every time I speak to a group. I also tell the audience that the people on your left, right, front and back, might be more important in building an effective network than any speaker you will hear over a lifetime. Your network will have a tremendous impact on your net worth.
I'm not the only one who thinks that way. Warren Buffet, the billionaire investment genius, claims, "If you improve your communication skills, I will guarantee you that you will earn 50 percent more money over your lifetime."
When I speak I share a time-tested exercise to help develop communication skills - the two-minute drill. I did this two-minute drill for the ﬁrst time in my hometown of Minneapolis in the early '90s with 1,000 people in the audience. Within two weeks, I received over 35 letters and cards telling me that thanks to the drill they were either doing business with the person they met or had a high probability of doing business with them. And I'd bet there were plenty of others who struck oil but didn't bother to write. This exercise is meaningful because almost invariably my mail tells me that it really "jump starts" the habit of networking.
Here's how the drill works: I ask the audience to look around and ask someone they don't know to be their partner. When the whistle blows, they have two minutes to tell that person everything about themselves that they regard as worth telling. A total of two minutes for background, achievement, hopes, dreams, goals, hobbies, marriage, children, frustrations over the hometown team's latest trade - everything they can think of.
When the two minutes are up, the whistle blows again, and it's the other person's turn. It's amazing what you can learn about another person in just two minutes.
I'll be out of their lives and back home on my deck before the day is over. But the person they just met might be in their lives forever.
Get out and get to know people all around you. Volunteer work. Political clubs. Hobby groups. Service clubs. Church groups. Industry associations.
Extension courses. The internet. The outernet... whatever.
By doing your own "two-minute drill" once a day, you'll meet at least 365 new contacts in just a year's time. Isn't that worth a two-minute investment each day?
In football, if you mess up the two-minute drill there is a very good chance you'll lose the game. In networking, if you mess up the two-minute drill there is a very good chance you will miss a major opportunity.
I learned this first-hand on a flight. I was on my way to do a speech, and I wasn't as prepared as I wanted to be, so I planned on using the time on the plane to make revisions, instead of networking. So, when the woman next to me tried to strike up a conversation, I smiled and told her I was working on deadline. Finally, about 10 minutes before we were to land, I finished my work. I put away my briefcase, and offered my hand to introduce myself and really looked at my seatmate for the first time.
She looked familiar. She looked very familiar. She looked a lot like Diane Sawyer of ABC News. In fact ... she was Diane Sawyer.
I missed my "Prime Time" with Diane Sawyer. It may be a while before I get another chance. Maybe never.
Mackay's Moral: When you expand your network, you expand your opportunities.