Why Make All the Mistakes, When We Can Learn from Others?

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There are “tried-and–true” networking techniques that are so simplistic they seem

that they cannot be really effective. Many times, we try to re-evaluate, improve upon and

complicate them. An experience I had once while on vacation reminds me of how we try

to make some things harder than they really are.

I was in Hawaii enjoying the surf when, unbeknownst to me, the water became

thick with Portuguese Man O’War jellyfish. Suddenly I felt a stinging sensation across

my chest. I wiped my chest with my right wrist and arm and lifted my arm up out of the

water. I saw the tentacles dripping off my arm and followed them with my eyes about 8

feet away to the body of the Man O’War jellyfish. With mounting alarm, I shook the

tentacles off my wrist back into the water and quickly swam out of the surf to the shore.

I ran up to the first hotel employee I saw, a cabana boy, who was serving drinks to

a sunning couple just off the pool deck and urgently exclaimed, “I think I’ve just been hit

in the chest by a Man O’War jellyfish! What should I do??”

“Are you feeling any pressure in your chest?” he wanted to know.

“No, none at all,” I replied anxiously.

“Okay, okay, here’s what you need to do. Go on over to the market off the lobby

and ask for some vinegar and meat tenderizer. You’re going to want to spray the vinegar

onto your chest and then shake the meat tenderizer onto the same spot and rub it all

around. You’ll be fine,” he assured me.

Well, I must say that I was less than impressed with this bizarre advice. He was

entirely too calm and that was entirely too easy to be a real solution – not to mention that

it was just plain strange. I figured he was doing a version of “let’s goof on the tourist,”

so I moved on to ask someone else for help.

I spotted a hotel employee standing not too far off and gingerly jogged over to

him, urgently repeating my exclamation, “I’ve just been hit in the chest by a Man O’War

jellyfish; what should I do?!”

He said, “Are you feeling any pressure in your chest?” Oh boy, I thought, next

he’s going to tell me to get some meat tenderizer! I thought he was kidding, or maybe I

was in a bad dream and just couldn’t wake up.

“No, I’m not feeling any pressure in my chest,” I reluctantly responded.

“Okay, then go over to the market off the lobby and ask for some vinegar and

meat tenderizer. You have to get that on your chest and rub it around and then you’ll be

just fine,” he said reassured. I felt anything but reassured.

By this time, I thought that maybe I better find someone who might really know

what to do. I headed up to the lobby, thinking that the hotel manager would be a good

choice to get a straight answer from.

There at the front desk was a mature gentleman wearing a badge that read: “Hotel

Manager.” Surely, I thought, this guy’s not going to “goof on the tourist.” I walked up

to him and repeated my mantra about the jellyfish strike. He looked at me with grave

concern and said, “Are you feeling any pressure in your chest.” “No,” I replied, “I’m

not feeling any chest pain.” “OK, good,” he said. “You need to go down the hall to the

small market and get some vinegar and meat tenderizer and put them on one at a time and

rub them thoroughly into your chest.”

Finally, I said what I’d been thinking all along… “You can’t be serious, right?”

This is a joke, right?” “No,” he reassured me this was not a joking matter. I needed to

proceed to the store immediately and apply that remedy.

I reluctantly trucked down the hall to the store just knowing that they were

all back there laughing at the goofy tourist who was actually going to do a self-

imposed “meat rub” on his chest. I was sure they had some barbecue grill going for when

I returned to the lobby all slathered up with vinegar and meat tenderizer.

I entered the small market off the lobby and started my search for char-grilled

products when I started feeling short of breath. Suddenly, very quickly and forcefully, I

began to experience a crushing weight on my chest. Was I having a heart attack? Great!

I’m having a coronary after wasting so much time talking to members of the hotel staff,

who were trying to get me to rub meat tenderizer on my chest. I walked out of the store

and staggered to the front desk, which by now was very busy with new guests checking

in to the hotel. I made eye contact with the hotel manager and almost immediately,

dropped to the ground, clutching my chest, barely able to gasp “Man O’War!”

What happened next was a total blur. I seem to remember a small child yelling

and pointing at me as I lay there in my bathing suit, gasping for breath.

“Look mommy, there’s a man on the floor.” The mother said something about

staying away from people who do drugs. I looked over and tried to say no, not drugs –

jellyfish! But all that came out was gibberish.

The paramedics rushed to the scene. Finally, I was going to get the medical

attention I needed. After determining what had happened, the paramedic opened his life-

saving kit and I knew he was about to pull out a defibrillator. I made my peace with

God and I braced myself for the big jolt. Instead, he pulled out – yes, you guessed it

– vinegar in a spray bottle and some Adolf’s meat tenderizer! He then proceeded to

spray the vinegar and then sprinkle the meat tenderizer on my chest, and thoroughly rub

the mixture around. Within seconds, literally seconds, the excruciating pain began to

subside. Within a couple minutes it was almost completely gone.

What I thought was a big “barbeque joke” on the tourist turns out to be a well-

known cure for some jellyfish strikes. You see, the meat tenderizer contains the enzyme

papain, which breaks down the toxin proteins and neutralizes them. It sounds too simple

to be really effective, but it is, in fact, one of the best things to do in that situation.

Thinking back on it, I am amazed at how many people gave me the solution

before I had to learn the hard way. Sure, who’s going to believe a cabana boy? I mean,

what does he know, right? And the hotel employee – OK, maybe there’s the start of a

pattern here but, I have a doctoral degree – I’m “smart,” and these guys have just got

to be kidding me… right? And then the hotel manager as well… OK, I admit it, at that

point there’s just no excuse. I should have figured out these guys knew what they were

talking about and I did not.

I made one of the biggest mistakes that people in business make – I didn’t listen

to the people who have experience. I assumed that I just had to know better… and the

truth is, I didn’t know better.

There is nothing like experience. It beats education every day of the week. The

only thing better is a combination of education and experience… or a willingness to learn

from other people’s experience. There are many basic referral marketing and networking

techniques that any good businessperson knows to be effective. They don’t try to

look for something more complicated or involved, because they know from their own

experience, as well as the experience of others, what works in business and what doesn’t

work in business.

Throughout your life you may read things that seem too simple to be effective or

may see ideas that you’ve heard before. Don’t dismiss them. Embrace them. Although

these ideas may be simple – they are not easy. If it they were easy, everyone would

do them – and they don’t! Great networkers learn from other people’s success. So, go

get that vinegar and meat tenderizer and learn from other “masters” that sometimes the

simplest ideas can have the biggest impact.

Called the father of modern networking by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times
bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s
largest business networking organization. You can read more of his material on his blog
at www.BusinessNetworking.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral
Institute, an international referral training company (www.referralinstitute.com