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Don’t cheat yourself

Throughout my work, I’ve looked for ways to help professionals find their edge.

I enjoy creating opportunities for people to connect, and I like disrupting things. I carefully consider the talents, skills, and work of individuals to see how strangers might enter a room and leave as friends. I ask questions with the intent of changing the way someone considers another, helping people talk about challenges they might be afraid to admit. I like watching industries share ideas in ways they hadn’t before imagined. I call it curated networking, and no two experiences are alike.

The point is, I’m looking to change people’s lives through relationships.

We’ve somehow arrived at the juncture where we avoid connection.

We guard carefully against who we allow into our circles. We avoid eye contact walking down the street. We limit the time we devote to leisurely interact with others. Some even argue our ability to make new friends after a certain age. We fear strangers and write them off for having no value to our busy lives. We’ll connect — if it’s easy and convenient and there’s an easy out.

However you do it, refuse to be complacent.

You can find a connected, outside observer who has a fresh perspective and can introduce you to personalities you might not otherwise meet. You can set goals to meet fellow travelers and instigators who will push you to find that next level. You can promise yourself that you’ll place yourself in new situations, demanding more out of your life and others than what the people around you expect of themselves.

Find people who can challenge you, make you uncomfortable, surprise you, inspire you.

Find others who share your same belief in greater work, greater conversation, deeper meaning. Put yourself in situations to remind yourself of the power of serendipity. There are people out there waiting to meet you. Don’t cheat them by holding yourself back.

Don’t cheat yourself.

Who are you looking for?

There are lots of people in this world, and most of us want to connect.

We visit bars, churches, gyms, groups, conferences, events, concerts, and parties hoping to meet someone who might send our world into a tailspin and infuse our life with new meaning.

We look for ways to deepen our existing relationships and simultaneously want to expand our network, expose ourselves to new options, and find different ways of doing things. We want to become better.

As business professionals, we attend seminars hoping to interact with someone who can offer insight into our work and challenge our beliefs. We sign up for groups, add ourselves to lists, fill our calendars with coffee dates, and comb our friends’ friends for people who might add value to our world.

With so many people looking, why are so many failing?

I recently spoke to a very charming, engaging entrepreneur who attended an expertly planned conference. Top players in international policy dappled the schedule, and high-profile keynotes lectured every hour. From the get-go, testimonials gushed all of the wonderfulness of the event, and sign-up sheets offered prime opportunities for attendees to market their businesses. Yet a very eager impresario walked away feeling like something was missing. Despite an impeccable schedule, he didn’t feel he had the opportunity to connect with others.

Information gleaned from speakers is surely helpful, inspiring, informative, but what’s the most valuable aspect of an event? Relationships. Think about the expertise in the room, just waiting to be accessed.

Yes, it can be difficult to strum up conversations in professional environments. It isn’t easy to approach strangers and put yourself on the line. It’s hard to be vulnerable.

How often do you step outside of your comfort zone?

What if you found yourself in a situation in which you didn’t know what to expect? You’re not sure who is going to be there, what you’re getting yourself into. Would the connections be different?

What if the only thing you knew is that you wanted to take something meaningful from the experience?

What if you approached your life that way?