Talking Your Way to Success:
The Power of Intentional Networking
The story of Les Brown’s big break to success as a motivational speaker, as he tells it, starts on an airplane. This is before the books, the videos, the corporate clients and the big money. This was when all of that was a dream for him that he was working to make come true.
Here’s how he tells it: “…one weekend; a Saturday evening, I was flying from Detroit to Chicago. Maybe about five passengers on board. I’m sitting next to a guy, I introduce myself to him, named Lafayette Jones.
‘Hi, my name is Les Brown.’
‘Hi, I’m Lafayette Jones.’
‘Guess what, man.’
‘I’m going to be on the Robert Schuller Program.’
‘Is that right? When?’
‘I’m not exactly sure. You know anybody, knows Robert Schuller?’
He said, ‘Yes.’
I said, ‘Who?’
‘Well, Mr. Johnson, that I work for.’
‘You’re kidding, how does he know him?’
‘He donated a million dollars to his ministry.’
‘You are kidding! I would like to meet him!’
‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a speaker.’
‘You gotta be kidding!’
‘Because, man, our speaker cancelled. Can you speak at a program?’
‘Yes! Will Mr. Johnson be there?’
Les Brown goes on to describe getting the gig for $5,000, which was a lot for him at that time and meeting the man that would introduce him to the person whose show he wanted to be on. From there, he gained the exposure that helped launch him as a public speaker.
Now, you could dismiss this accomplishment as blind luck, predestine, or God’s will, but that takes all the power of your success out of your hands and leaves it up to circumstances out of your control.
Is that how to steer yourself towards your dreams? Hoping on the whims of outside forces? Or is that missing the real takeaway from his story?
OK, yes it was fortunate that Les Brown was on a random plane, seated next to a random person who just happened to have a paying gig and a connection. But here’s where Les Brown took control of his dreams in a way that many people, who only rely on hope and chance, never do.
Wow! There it is. That’s one of the keys people who want to change their lives constantly ask the successful for; the enlightenment they pray to God for; and the secret they tell themselves nobody shares.
He turned to a stranger, someone he had no personal capital with and introduced himself and spoke about his goal. He not only was willing to open himself up, he was prepared to follow-through. But it started with the act of intentionally networking.
Why ‘intentional’? Because that wasn’t the first person he spoke to about his dream. As Les Brown tells it, he would ask all the people he met if they knew the host Robert Schuller. He had decided to network his way to his goal.
But notice, I didn’t say it was “just that easy”…because I know for some people, like myself, who are extremely introverted or at least somewhat shy, it feels impossible to have the comfortability to talk to absolute strangers, 1-on-1, in an unplanned setting, without a previous mutual connection or at least an introduction from another party.
I, personally, marvel at those folks who can strike up conversations with anyone, anywhere. Put me on a flight, next to someone I’ve never met, and I’ll likely leave that flight still having never met that person…unless I intentionally place myself in networking mode. It’s not natural for me, but the value in it is undeniable.
I suggest, if you’re looking to make your dream a reality; if your dream is a new job, turning your screenplay into a movie, getting investors for your invention, becoming a music producer, or an entrepreneur, or whatever your personal goal may be, that you craft your networking skills to make that connection you didn’t know was coming.
Research networking techniques and find the ones you’re capable of doing; perfect them; then learn the ones you’re not capable of doing and perfect them too. There is a plethora of materials and media out there to help you, you’ve got to commit yourself to get there.
Practice with people you know, especially people like yourself who may need the practice too.
Turn to mentors and your trusted advisors for insight into how you can use the best parts of your personality to build your confidence in being accessible to
strangers and use it to make a useful connection.
You can choose to make the seemingly random into the purposeful encounter…or you can leave it up to chance.
But your power is in your choice.