How to Network Without Losing Your Soul - Part 1

Introduction to Networking 101, Part 1 of 3

An AM Approach, Definition and The Who and What of Networking

Networking Bottom Line Up Front: Social interaction is another term for networking. We all network, but we can choose how deliberate we are about it. Once we know how to be deliberate we can apply our skills or not, but social interaction just gets better and better.

Warning: As the old comic book adage goes, we must never use our powers for evil. If we use people as a means to an end, we de-humanize both them and ourselves. Never use social interaction as a way to use people. Use social interaction to serve others and bring value. It will enrich your life and theirs.

An Authentic Masculinity Approach to Networking: At AM we are first and foremost practical. We seek to offer our community tools and techniques that are repeatable, scalable and practical. One of our favorites is the application of the deceptively simple Five Ws and The H. We recommend using the simple questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How to break down most any problem. It gets exciting quickly and in this case gets fun quickly too with the addition of a sort of switch as the second simple word. Switch the word from “is or can” to “should”.  For example, “When can we network?” becomes “When should we network?” It may sound tricky, but it’s not (well, the ethics of it can be, but that’s fun, too) and you’ll see very quickly what a big difference that simple shift makes. How we look at anything is a choice we make. When we learn to make that choice, gentlemen, we are the better for it. OK, here we go.

A simple AM definition of networking: Deliberate ethical social interaction.

Who can network: Human beings are social creatures. We all network from the earliest moments of our existence. It may sound funny to think of a baby networking, but we all did it. We benefit from the relationships in our family and we learn very quickly as children how to use those relationships to get what we need, then what we want, then where we want to go, and it takes off from there. There are many variables at work in a family and ideally we learn how to be ethical networkers by both the examples set for us and the underlying philosophy in our families. But we all can and do network.

Who should network: This is where it starts to get interesting. Anyone who wants anything can benefit from networking, so in a sense we all should network. The degree to which we can navigate human relationships determines much in our lives. There is a commonly accepted theory (apply it to yourself to see if it is true in your own life) that our income is the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If this is true, and common sense tells us it very well may be, as a practical matter it makes sense to be deliberate about who you associate with. You should interact with people who can help you and who are good for you. Anyone who wants more out of life should network and the degree to which you network well can determine how quickly or slowly you grow and progress through life.

What is networking: We said above that networking is deliberate ethical social interaction. That’s a pretty good working definition. How aware we are of our own networking quickly starts to affect all the variables involved. We’ll try to cover as much as we can as we proceed.

What should networking be: Networking should be ethical and effective. At AM we promote a belief in Natural Law. Simply put, Natural Law states that all human beings have within them a basic working knowledge of a universal morality. The best example I can think of is that in no society in the world is cowardice admired. In all societies courage is a virtue, though there is some disagreement on the details. Consistent with Natural Law, networking should always be ethical. We must never use other human beings as a means to an end, for human beings are an end in themselves. One of the beauties of this approach is that it sets us up well for success at networking because if we think of other human beings as ends in themselves we will help them and interestingly, by so doing, we help ourselves, too. So, networking should be ethical, deliberate social interaction in which you bring value first and in which you seek to build a long-term relationship. You may disagree with the details or practical application of this, but you’ll see, I think, why it’s a wise way to proceed. For one thing, it’s easier to scale a relationship back from long-term to short-term than it is to go from short-term to long-term. Start by assuming you’re building a long-term relationship. We treat people differently if we assume we will be seeing them frequently over time. And, effective networking is like all communication—the sophisticated networker takes responsibility for both sides of the interaction. And, effective networking should maximize the wins for all involved. The more wins, the better.

Next week: The where, when and why of networking.

How to lay low, get strong and bide your time

Bottom Line Up Front: The economy is changing. This is a consistent Authentic Masculinity theme and we will continue to hammer it often. Even if you are in a challenging job you enjoy, odds are your employer is looking for ways to move you out. That day—the day you get laid off or fired-- may never come, but the prudent man prepares for it nonetheless.  Others depend on you and you had better be thinking 3 steps ahead all the time. One of the best ways to prepare is to plot your escape— plotting an escape is invigorating-- while continuing to perform well at your job. That way if you are asked to move on you will be ready to take on the new economy.

The happy, savage reality:

Taxes are rising indefinitely, the value of the US dollar is sinking and liberty is calling you.

 If you are in a J.O.B. (Just Over Broke) count your blessings. This is a tough economy. Having a J.O.B. is a privilege. It’s good for us and provides us with stability, but we are foolish in the extreme to think it will last forever. We, as men, do what we have to do for those we love. However, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. If you’re in a J.O.B., you are trading time for money, which is a losing game and bad for our animal instincts. We are in an inflationary national economy linked to an increasingly competitive tech-driven global economy. Taxes will continue to go up, the value of our paychecks will continue to go down. No employer can (or should be expected to) keep your standard of living up in times like these and these times are here to stay.

So, write this down as your new mantra: A job is a short term solution to a long term problem.

The follow-on: A long-term solution is being employable rather than employed and ultimately self-sufficient. We will explore the long term solution in a later blog post.

For now…

Be a man. Embrace reality with vigor.

So, how do you strengthen your position in your J.O.B. while you prepare to be let go? One way is to lay low, strengthen yourself and bide your time.

Lay Low.

Laying low is not as sneaky as it sounds. The essentials of laying low: be a quiet, competent professional, bring value every day, cultivate a respectful sense of humor and learn the skills of your job. All while committing to a difficult and demanding philosophy:

Never criticize, condemn or complain and argue with no one. Ever.

Doing this brings value (we can assume you are reasonably competent), earns you the friendship and respect of your colleagues and makes you a better man. It’s tough and requires discipline and diligence. The way to cultivate a respectful sense of humor? Try this the next time you want to be funny: no joke, quip or witticism is funny unless everyone laughs. No victim humor, no put downs, no sarcasm.

Once you’re doing these things…

Strengthen yourself.

Strengthening yourself means investing in yourself. Do this while being a model employee bringing value every day to your job no matter how much or little you love that job. Resources to strengthen yourself: Tim Ferriss’s books, Robert Kyosaki’s books, James Altucher’s blog posts and podcasts, the Great Jim Rohn’s YouTube videos. Anything by Tony Robbins.  Commit to lifelong learning, become a student and improve yourself, which means you’re humble.

We need humility because pride destroys our lives and kills us.

So while you work at a difficult task and become a humble self-strengthening student, focus on the future and the intoxicating air of liberty.  Now, you would be wise to plot your escape.

A daring. Daylight. Escape.

Try to take as many men with you as you can by setting the example and inspiring them.

To do that requires you yourself be inspired, have a vision, and be disciplined, resourceful, resilient, diligent. All this makes you attractive to your employer. See how it starts to work? By preparing for the worst you make it less scary, less likely and you improve your situation.

But you are ready.

Why inspiration?

Inspiration is the spark that lights a fire in you. Inspiration is what tells you to take action. Sometimes it’s a soft, nagging, quiet little voice that whispers in your ear, “You deserve better.” Sometimes inspiration is a claxon-like, clarion call that says, “Wake up! You’re on a sinking life and it’s going to take you down with it. Get out, get in that cold water, fix your life and get it up and moving forward again.”

Why vision?

It has been said in many other places that without vision you will perish.

It’s true.

Here’s the question—do you have the courage, to envision a different life for yourself?

If so, good. If not, why not? If not for yourself, then for the ones who rely on you. What did your wife expect the day she married you?

Write that vision down. This is so important. Write down the vision you have of your future when you’re feeling the most motivated and hungry for success.

A brain like a dried up peach.

Let’s face it-- most jobs are a daily grind of soul-crushing, ambition crushing, and mind numbing boredom surrounded by people who are petty and miserable. The reason is that economically a J.O.B. is a dead end. You’re trading time for money, your employer is scrambling to find efficiencies and you’re earning the lowest quality of money (earned income) being taxed at the highest rate. Inflation and taxes alone are going to eat you alive.

As an employee you are shielded from reality. You have very few decisions to make and not making decisions over time causes your brain to atrophy.

When we are employees our brains tend/tend to become like dried up peaches.

But now you are different. You have a vision. Armed with your vision and encouraged by even a little spark of inspiration, now you have to focus on your daily discipline.

Four kinds of discipline.

Mental Discipline, Physical Discipline, Discipline to Do and Discipline Not to Do.

Mental discipline is where it all starts. Mental toughness drives physical toughness because mental toughness is what it takes to control your emotions. Men, we have to make our own weather every day. We dare not rely on anyone else to get us in the right mental framework to seize our fortunes.

Physical discipline drives your body to do what it does not want when it doesn’t want to do it. It’s doing what your mentally disciplined mind tells it to do. Get out of bed on time, don’t complain, make your bed. It takes emotional and mental discipline to lay low in a J.O.B. and consistently turn in good, solid, cheerful results that exceed the standard.

Discipline to DO is saving money, for example.

Discipline NOT to do is not spending. Two different skills, both important. You’ll think of other examples.

Why resourcefulness?

Life, like golf, is a game of inches. You will have to do what you can with what you have where you are. Sometimes that means taking the resources you’re given and using them in different ways.

You’ll know what we mean when the time comes. Write us when it does. You will be proud of what you do when the chips are down because you are a resourceful man.

Why resilience?

Being resilient means bouncing back. Think like a small tree in a stiff wind. It is blown and it bends, It knows it can bounce back. So can you.

Why diligence?

Because standing up on your own two feet is going to take time. You will encounter setbacks. You will doubt yourself and you will fall down as you learn. You must always get back up and get back in the game. If you do not quit you will never fail.

Bide your time.

Biding your time means you are making a conscious decision to wait and watch. It can be called a Strategic Pause. It can be called Developing the Situation. In combat it’s when your lead elements take fire and as the commander you resist the temptation to have them fire back reactively. You exercise restraint while you observe, discern and weigh your options. Then, you act on your own terms.

It’s very tough to do and very wise.

Decide now how much your own freedom and dignity are worth and what you are willing to do to achieve them. Remember the five words of success? “Get started and don’t stop.”

You are a man and I believe in you. You deserve better. Now, fight to earn the freedom you deserve.

If you’d like to be coached through this process—no matter where you are on the employee chain, very, very high or very, very low—consider Authentic Masculinity coaching. To learn more, sign up!

My Own Horrifying Jerry Maguire Moment

“He that speaks the truth must have one foot in the stirrup.”-- Turkish proverb

par·al·lax--, noun, the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions(note: parallax is also the term used in tank gunnery to describe the lining up of the gunner’s or tank commander’s sight with the tank main gun gun tube)

Bottom Line Up Front: Recently I posted a blog post critical of Human Resources departments dominated by women. I was trying to advocate for greater cooperation between men and women and make a point about a situation faced by men. I fear I offended hard working women. As men, getting it right—keeping our integrity while fulfilling our responsibilities-- is the toughest thing we’ll ever do. We will fall many times. It’s terrifying and necessary in this crazy world for all of us—men as well as women—to keep trying to get it right.

It’s completely worth it, but let’s be careful of each other.

The Jerry Maguire Moment? Realizing to your horror your conscience may have over-ridden your good judgment.

In a crisis of conscience in the middle of the night during a corporate off-site, sports agent Jerry Maguire writes a mission statement criticizing the company he works for and the industry it serves.

Before he can stop himself, he distributes it to the entire company.

He wakes the next morning horrified to realize what he’s done.

He is fired two weeks later and must re-build his life.

A compelling story to watch, a tough road to travel.

“Let’s face it. Men are insensitive. They don’t listen.”

Let’s go back a few years.

After I retired from the Army in 2002 I went to work for a defense contractor. I was a Program Manager and Section Manager. I attended an HR training event run by two former corporate Vice Presidents. At the event they self-described as a Jewish lawyer and a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) manager. I remember thinking, “OK, now our cards are on the table.”

 I think the event was aimed at making everyone more sensitive to the needs of a diverse work force.

The word diverse had already lost its meaning, even then.

I had watched the company’s HR department try diligently for two years to manage a rapidly changing work force in our crazy litigious society.

Well into the event one of the presenters said, “Let’s face it. Men are insensitive. They don’t listen.”

I shot my hand up. It seemed this was a typical moment of self-serving corporate hypocrisy.

I worked hard and was proud of the professionalism I tried to show every day to all people.

He called on me.

I said, “I gotta throw the flag on you for that one. You sound pretty sexist, there.”

That was me, a man, calling him, a man, sexist.

Crazy or what?

Further down in the auditorium a young lady shot her hand up.

Can I say young lady? In my culture it is how I show respect.

She was black.

Can I say black? I have lost track of what other people tell me I am allowed to say.

When she put her hand up I remember thinking, “OK, here we go. Now I’m going to get it.”

The presenter called on the young lady.

She said, “I gotta tell you, he (meaning me) is right. I have worked here for some years. I love my job. I love working here. White, middle aged men have tried harder than anyone else to get this stuff right and have been the most helpful of anyone here. They listen. They have helped me. They have taught me. I am very grateful for that.”

Maybe she wasn’t quite that complimentary, but it’s been some years. I remember feeling that complimented.

That honored.

That appreciated.

She was absolutely great.

That is the story—it must happen elsewhere-- that doesn’t get told enough.

“Men just don’t take me seriously.”

About two years later at the same company I attended another HR sponsored training event.

The presenter was a very attractive young lady.

Attractiveness matters. It’s relevant. Don’t kid yourself.

She had started her own training company.

She was a subcontractor.

Very professional.

Very competent.

Very confident.

Her task? To teach a room full of men—former soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen-- to manage their security clearances properly.

It was a good class.

So good that I, even then wanting to launch my own business, asked her to coffee to learn from her.

She taught many different kinds of courses and said she was considering cancelling this particular gig.

She said men were under-represented in her field because HR was dominated by women and HR made the training decisions.

I asked her to connect the dots.

She said, “I know my job. My business is profitable. I’m good and get invited back. I hope it’s because I am effective. However, it’s also because I’m a woman.  There are advantages to a woman-owned business and being hired by other women. But there’s a down side. I know when I am not getting through to men. They look at me. They see an attractive woman and they check out. They are not thinking about what I’m saying. They look at me and think of… let’s just say… other things.”

She said a man could make a lot of money in her field because his training would be more effective if the target audience is men. Men listen to men.

She encouraged me to start a business like hers specifically training men in the cleared community because that market is under-served.

 The result? Men aren’t getting trained effectively. The client was not getting as good a product.

Like it or not, human nature plays a role in communication.

Sex is part of human nature.

Sometimes you have to test a limb to see how strong it is. Sometimes that limb is yourself.

My Jerry Maguire moment was the decision to publish a blog post. Scared me to death.

Two weeks ago I published a blog post titled The Invisible Engine. In it I describe a situation I have discovered through talking with men. They have confirmed my own experience in corporate America and to a degree my experience working in the Federal Government.

You can read it here.

When I was frightened I had done the wrong thing by posting it I wanted to re-write and soften it.

I have not re-written it.

But I have re-thought it.

It is a pretty fair assessment of the situation as I have experienced it and as I have learned of it through speaking with other men.

Many men I have spoken with do feel marginalized and patronized if not outright persecuted just for being men.

Many men are sort of punch drunk from the PC wars.

They have checked out.

They are throughout the work force and want to engage and work hard, but are hesitant to do so because they believe they will be penalized.

Some of them are using their employers’ resources to cheat the system.

That is not getting it right. You can’t cheat.

Here’s why I was horrified. I work with very professional women. I thought my blogpost would offend them and women and men have to solve the problems we face together.

My manager is a woman.

She is one of the hardest working, most detail oriented, professional managers I have ever encountered.

Like all of us, she has her faults.

Like most of us, she is probably painfully more aware of her faults than anyone else is.

She works hard to get it—managing-- as close to right as she can every single day.

She pours herself into the job with all she has. She busts her back.

She works long hours and puts all she has into every task.

I assume she reads my blog posts because writing blog posts is a public act.

However, I don’t know for certain.

She is so attentive to being professional that she would not mention my blogposts because doing so may cross a line she wants us to keep in place.

The HR Reps who help me are women.

I am trying to learn to be more effective at my job.

I reached out to my HR reps.

They have agreed to meet with me.

They are women. Hard-working, professional, detail oriented and crazy professional.

They want to succeed and they want me to succeed.

Our senior-most manager is a woman.

Finally, not too long ago a very senior official in our organization came down to talk with us.

Professional, knowledgeable, experienced and very generous with her most precious asset: her time.

Again, too, she is a woman. Like me, like you, she is trying to get it right.

The Masculine Genius. The Feminine Genius.

We all know who Warren Buffett is. His business partner at Berkshire Hathaway is a man named Charlie Munger. Buffett said something very wise that I have applied to my marriage. He said, “Charlie and I disagree on many things, but we never argue.”

That’s gold, there, gentlemen. Gold. Men and women may disagree but we both lose when we argue.

When I first started doing research on how to launch Authentic Masculinity I read two books simultaneously. One was Choose Yourself by James Altucher. The other was Free Range Human by Maryann Cantwell.

A man’s perspective.

A woman’s perspective.

Parallax (if you missed it, see the definition of parallax at the start of this post).

 I benefit.

Call To Action: Write a Personal Mission Statement.

Jerry Maguire moments can be devastating, but life is a force of crushing compromise and those compromises can crush our value to our employers. Most of us start a career with high ideals and then slowly allow our ideals and standards to drop in response to day to day realities. Fight that trend by doing the following:

First, today, right now, write down as quickly as you can why you are in the line of work you are in.

Second, answer these questions and remember the answers are strictly for you, nobody else, so feel free to let yourself go with the answers.

Why are you doing the work you do now and why did you start some years ago?

How are the reasons different?

How have your reasons changed over the years?

What are your current motivations and what are your current ideals for your own profession?

Finally, after considering the answers to these questions, how has experience and the lessons of your career made you better and how can you bring that sense of being better to the work place to add value? Use that answer to write for yourself a personal mission statement that is your call to action on a daily basis. Use it to serve your management with passion. All of this can help you to re-energize yourself and help you to boost the contributions you bring, as a man, to the work place in which you serve.