It Started With A Frog
It all started when we decided to write a book on networking—networking done right. To do networking right you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs. Actually, you just have to go out and meet more frogs and enjoy doing it. The book was called The Frog and Prince: Secrets of Positive Networking to Change your Life and we self-published it. Soon after it was Penguin Prentice Hall became our publisher. (There’s a networking story on how this happened, of course!) Work The Pond! Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life became a Globe and Mail best-seller. And, it’s also been translated and sold in China, Korea and Russia.
Writing a book is a challenge and three people writing a book is a lesson in ‘playing well together’. Once we started getting feedback from people we were surprised how our concept of Positive Networking® really resonated with readers. Sharing our philosophy of networking, that it is not about you—instead, it’s discovering what you can do for others—it was people wanted to hear. Most people don’t like hard-sell transactional-style networking. They just want to learn how to build better relationships. That’s what our book is about.
It’s funny that nowadays self-publishing is kind of cool–thank you Seth Godin—and even though we had a successful book on the market we wanted a big name publisher. But, there was a problem because the three of us live in Vancouver, which is not exactly the hotbed of publishing. New York literary agents weren’t hanging around any networks we travelled in, so how did we get our book published by a big name publisher — Penguin?
Table Hockey Got Us Published
It happened in Switzerland. Over the years Darcy and Gayle have been going to the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual event in the little town of Davos. It’s uber-networking with a bunch of very important people who are all squeezed into an overheated conference center, are required to wear name tags (even Jack Welch and Brad Pitt), and who are given free passes to ride the local buses to get between hotels. These are people who haven’t seen the inside of a bus since they carried a Lone Ranger lunch box. It makes for some interesting networking!
Rescuing a Wallflower
It was the year after we published The Frog and Prince, and we were at an event at a Davos hotel. As always happens at any networking event, there was someone standing alone. So we naturally went over. Why? Because who hasn’t been a wallflower? It was Lou Marinoff, author of Plato, Not Prozac. We told him we were from Canada and that bit of information seemed to really interest him. He told us that there was a television show on a Canadian TV station and alas, he was missing it because he was in Davos. (Clinton, Gates and Blair are ‘in the building’ and he wants to watch Canadian TV?) It turned out that it was a show on table hockey (little stick hockey figures you manipulate with what looks like barbeque skewers poking out the ends of the rink). It all started to make sense because we learned that Dr. Marinoff was the ‘star’ of the program (table hockey and philosophy are his two passions). We told him we’d be happy to get someone to tape the program (before PVR-ing) and we would send it to him.
A Positive Networking® Moment
Since Positive Networking® is “discovering what you can do for others”, that was “what we could do for him.” We did it with no expectation of anything in return. Once Lou received the tape, he contacted us and was extremely happy. He wanted to reciprocate so we said, “Buy us a drink next time we are in New York”. He wanted to do more, and then we remembered he had published a book, so we asked, “Do you have an agent?” “Yes, Joelle Delbourgo,” he answered. Then we asked, “Would you mind giving our book to your agent?” In a crazy leap of faith, he said yes. And that’s how we got Penguin as our publisher.
It’s Science, Not Serendipity
Believe it or not, this is a story about the science of networks, rather than the serendipity of networking. It’s about the counter-intuitive concept of how networks operate—something called the strength of weak ties. Dr. Mark Granovetter wrote a sociology paper, The Strength of Weak Ties in 1973 (!), and even with over 19,000 citations, his concept is still a bit of a sleeper with the general public. Many people continue to believe that your close contacts, and centers of influence are how you make the right connections, but here’s the problem—they know the same people you do. In our case, our close contacts were in our local market, which was not a publishing mecca. By meeting a stranger from New York, while in Switzerland, we made a link to a New York agent.
Mission: Raise Everyone’s Networking Shepa
So, when we hear these kinds of statements it makes us want to pull out our hair:
- “I’m not interested in meeting that person, we don’t have anything in common.”
- “Why bother talking to someone on an airplane.”
- “All my networking is focused on key contacts and centers of influence.”
- “I put the A cards in one pocket, the B cards in the other, and when I get home I throw out the B cards.”
These are missed opportunities! If you connect with weak links you are now one handshake away from their entire network. It could lead to opportunities you would never have found any other way. That’s when networking gets magical.
Three Networking Tips From This Story
- Rescue wallflowers
- Yes, build your centers of influence, but don’t forget about your weak links
- If you can do something nice for others, do it