I recently read a wonderful book, “Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi. The book was aimed at the business world – aspiring CEOs and entrepreneurs, but the lessons could be applied by anyone who wants to make some connections with other people. The goal is to create authentic and meaningful relationships in order to succeed in work and life.
The book made me think about my own personal relationships with people. Making friends in grade school was relatively easy just by proximity. In a room filled with 30 other people who are your same age, live in the same area, and are exposed to the same lessons and expectations, it’s simple to bond and form attachments. This observation isn’t meant to diminish my friendships made during those years. One of my very best friends I’ve known since kindergarten. I won’t tell you how long ago this was because the math is too difficult, but it was many years ago. (Ok, fine! It was 38 years ago. Stupid math.)
In a way, college was even easier. The campus was full of people who were there to meet others and to learn. Self discovery was paramount and there were many people with diverse backgrounds to help with this. Not needing to support myself thanks to my parents and scholarships (thanks, Mom and Dad!) I had a lot of free time to devote to friends and studies and projects. Some of my best memories and friendships were from college.
Ever since then, making friends has become much more difficult, and really most of that responsibility has to rest on my shoulders, because in the real world, making and maintaining friends is work. When things were easy in school, I didn’t need to learn how to meet other people outside of work and how to cultivate those meetings by connecting by phone, email, coffee meetings, etc. Fear of rejection was also a limiting factor, but Ferrazzi’s book shows that by making the effort to learn about others and by finding what interests them, you’re less likely to be rejected. Everyone likes to be liked, and when someone makes the effort to learn your name and shows real interest in what matters to you, it’s hard not to like them.
These lessons can be applied as well to artists and writers who are trying to promote and market their work. So many writers seem to scream at everyone they know to buy their just published book. “Buy! Buy! Buy!” What they should be doing is creating relationships online and in person, building trust and interest in their work. While quietly building support and an inventory of material, the artist will find people who like their work, who want to read or buy more, and who will share their interest with other people they know. Finding the niche markets will be more profitable in the end than lambasting everyone with marketing attempts in hopes of having a best seller. Yes, this takes some work and time, and many writers are shy and just want to live inside their books and the universes they create – but this is no longer possible in today’s world.
Yes, I will let my blog readers and Facebook followers know when new stories, novels and photographs are available. But I also intend to provide content that people will find interesting and share observations about my life that will bring you into my world a little bit and allow you to know me. Hopefully readers and friends will comment and share their own observations and a community of meaningful connections will form. I’ll also work on cultivating friendships in my day-to-day life. Humans are meant to live in community, and while it might take a bit more effort in today’s hectic, fast-paced world, it will be worth it