In whatever you do, take that first, essential step; dive into the water. You may have developed the ideal solution for a major problem or invented a product that fills a critical void, but what good are they if you never implement your plans. Don’t waste your time sitting around, thinking, planning, and tinkering because you will never get your businesses off the ground. Instead, get started, do something, make a move. Put yourself out there and see where you land. Get wet; soaking wet.
Many people have little or no business experience. They have never taken business courses and don’t understand business terms. Business scares them; its alien territory, a place where they feel they don’t belong. When it comes to business, they don’t know what to do, where to turn, or who to ask for help. They are completely lost. They want to go into business, but fear that they will be devoured. Before long, the fire that fueled their passion sputters and dies.
You can’t succeed without trying. Venturing out, taking chances, is the only way to learn and to succeed. Many people simply won’t try because they are afraid to fail. They don’t try because it’s easier for their fragile psyches to accept that they didn’t try, than to admit that they tried and failed. They would rather not try than to try and not succeed.
Get into the game
To me, standing around, spinning my wheels and watching others pass me by is not living life; it’s missing life. It’s staying on the sidelines and watching others play the game.
I love the game; the excitement, learning; meeting and building relationships with new and different people. People fascinate me and their stories amaze me. Frequently I want to pinch myself because I work with and meet an astonishing array of outstanding people who constantly contribute wonders to my life.
I prefer to be active, busy, and expose myself to stimulating, new people and experiences. This exposure has introduced me to amazing opportunities, remarkable individuals, and interests that have changed my life. They have also introduced me to talents, parts of myself, which I never knew I possessed. They’ve enabled me to continue to grow and enjoy a rich, productive life.
Occasionally, we all get stuck. At one time, most of us have had a daunting paper to write and waited until the last, possible moment. We did everything to avoid the task until our only choice was to start writing or flunk. Finally, in total fear, we sat down to write. The first few words were agony. They may have even drawn blood. The initial paragraph had the grace of an armored tank and moved just as fast. But then we found the rhythm, words broke loose, and sentences formed. Ideas emerged, the momentum grew, and we got into a flow. Suddenly, we were immersed in our writing, lost in our thoughts and were expressing them clearly, directly, and logically — to our utter surprise.
How many people do you know who have the careers they initially planned or began? I know very few. Years ago, people chose a business or career and stayed in it for life. Today, that’s not the norm. People develop new interests, evolve, and change careers. Some move from career to career and then back again. And experts predict, that this trend will increase.
The most interesting and successful individuals I know have evolved from vastly different careers than those they began. Somewhere in their trajectory, they came across an interesting subject, person, insight, experience, or opportunity. Their contacts, curiosity, or knowledge carried them into the unknown where they met with kindred spirits who helped them along the way.
I went to school to study psychology and never thought about publicity. Before Jay Conrad Levinson became the worlds’ largest selling business writer, he had a career in advertising. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was a housewife who didn’t run for public office until her children were grown.
OK, now you know that you have to take action and begin. The question is where do you start? Consider organizational events. They can be the ideal places to begin making contacts because virtually everyone who attends these events is there to network and make connections. Frequently, these events have been structured to facilitate networking. Specific times have been set-aside for attendees to meet one another, interact, and make connect.
The fact that these events are networking oriented can take the pressure off shy, uncomfortable newcomers. Since everybody has the same agenda, to connect with others, strangers will frequently approach you, introduce themselves, and engage you in conversations. When you talk with others, it breaks the tension, and makes it less frightening. You find that taking to the next person is easier and that you’re more comfortable.
A dizzying number of organizations hold networking events, so the trick is to attend those that could be most productive for you. Choosing the best events can take a little investigation and although every group is a potential source of referrals, some are clearly better than others. Therefore, it’s usually worth the time and effort to learn which can be the most opportune for you. Or start your own group.
Groups serve different audiences and have different slants or purposes. Civic organization support community projects, women’s groups work to promote women’s causes, and industry associations serve the members of their particular fields. So I always belong to a number of groups.
Before you join organizations:
Clarify your objectives for both the short and long term. List what you want to accomplish and how long you realistically think it will take.
Precisely identify your target audience. Know exactly whom you want to meet: travel writers, classic car restorers, or wine distributors. Then go to organizational events that they would attend.
In identifying your targets, look for cross-promotional opportunities. Members of certain groups may not use your goods or services themselves, but they could give you entrée to a large number of people that will.
Learn about each organization; investigate what you may be getting into. Ask about its mission, agenda, membership profile, events and causes, how often it meets, and the commitment you will be expected to make. If you’re young and new in business, do you want to join an established service organization that has an older demographic? Perhaps you do. Speak with your friends and business associates. Learn about their experiences and what they would recommend for you. Be their guests at meetings and events and experience them for yourself.
Before you join an organization, speak with at least one member. Get a general overview of the group, its strong points, what it’s like to belong, how it could help you, and information about its members. Specifically ask what they like best and least. Usually, those you speak with will introduce you at your first meeting or even sponsor you, which will help you make contacts and gain credibility.
Join organizations in your field, but also venture out. If you’re a publicist, join publicity associations, but also think about going to authors groups because writers need publicity. If you’re the only insurance salesperson who belongs to the motorcycle club, it could help you sell policies. Joining organizations outside of your own industry can also turn you on to new and fascinating people and interests, which can stimulate and add excitement to your life.
When you join organizations, decide how involved you want to be. Devoting your time to causes, serving on committees, and being an officer can dramatically increase your profile. Ask yourself, can you afford the time, effort or expense of leading a campaign or being a director? Is it worthwhile for you? Or will your service be rewarding enough to justify the time?
No matter how far you branch out or how successful you become, I think it’s essential to remain closely connected to your local community: your Chamber of Commerce, business, civic, and community groups. These organizations will be your base; their members will be the core advocates who will root for you, support you, and spread your fame. When you try to expand beyond your local area, they can give strong endorsements when people in the new markets ask about you.
Become a star in your industry. Go against the grain.
Jill Lublin is an internationally acclaimed speaker and best selling author of the books, Guerrilla Publicity and Networking Magic. She is the CEO of the strategic consulting firm Promising Promotion and founder of GoodNews Media, Inc. Jill hosts the nationally syndicated radio show Do the Dream, has a TV show called The Connecting Minute, and is working on her third book to be published by McGraw-Hill in 2008. She can be reached by phone at 415-883-5455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.