Saying no and how to make sure you suck at networking

Don't say yes to someone else if it means saying no to yourself.

Level of Focus determines how good of a networker you are.

Focus makes it possible for anyone to walk into a room and know what they will get before they leave, why they want it, and how to get it.  Focus means planning to know what’s important and unimportant.  Most importantly, focus means that knowing when the goal accomplished, and it’s time to move on to the next project.

When you go to Molotov on that Thursday night to hang out with all the cool Austin tech people, are you trying to get a job?  Do you need to find a developer?  Do you just want to have a good time?  Have you asked yourself that question at all?

“What do you do?” 

 …Do you already know the answer?  Are you waiting for someone else to tell you?  Will you accept the first thing that comes along?

Focus is knowing what you will reject.  You can’t say yes to anything, until you’re willing to say no.

We must know with certainty exactly what we don’t want in order to know what we do want.  When we’re willing to say yes to the first thing that comes along, and don’t know what we’re willing to say no to, it’s usually a signal that we have zero clue what we actually want to say yes to.  It’s an indicator that we haven’t decided what is important in our life.

We have the responsibility to know important and not important, and then have the confidence to choose what’s important.

This post is very personal.  Lack of focus, and learning how to focus myself is one of the things that I’m focusing on these days (heh).
Who am I focused on becoming?

When I first started chewing on the concept of “focus” almost two months ago, I was prompted by people that I thought were terrible networkers.  I saw the same pattern at several events, and it got me to thinking.

The Pattern
           A. [awkwardly] I’m looking for a new job these days.  If you can help, that would be super!
           B. [smiling heartily] What sort of job are you looking for?  I’d love to help you find it.
           A. [looks around the room uncomfortably] Oh, I don’t have much of a preference.  I could really
do anything.  I like marketing and
                 social media though…
           B. [wanting more information] Well ok, lots of people do social media these days.  Let’s get
specific,  which companies in Austin really inspire you?
           A.  I don’t really know, any of them would be cool…Facebook…Google…Bazaarvoice.. I like lots
of them…Do you know people there?…

The conversation will die at this point because Person A has no idea what they want or what they’re qualified for, and Person B isn’t going to make an introduction to anyone but a career coach.  Introductions are a form of currency.  Asking for an intro is asking for a loan of social capital.  It’s essential that we give someone a good reason to make that investment.

Focus and Commitment are big factors to convince anyone to invest in something.

Commitment is dangerous.  Committing total focus to one course of action means saying no to everything else.

The rest of the world disappears when we’re focused.  When someone tries to interrupt you, you don’t notice at first.  And once they distract your attention, they break your focus.

Focus is the place we go to create things and change the world.

Why wasn’t I focused?  I was terrified of saying no.  I was afraid of what I might lose in the process.

Trying to focus was was uncomfortable.  But I needed to find focus and commitment before my life and career could take off.

A simple realization shifted me.  I realized that all the leaders that I admire have things they would say yes to, and things they would say no to.  They weren’t everything to everyone, and consistently rejected certain ideas, and even pick certain fights.  Somethings are worth fighting for.

The title of this post might also be, “How to become exceptional at getting what you want.”  People can learn to be exceptional at getting what they want, and become sought after in the job market.

I’ve started asking myself the following questions to refine my focus:

  • Where am I better than everyone else?
  • What do I read, watch, listen to, write about, talk about, think about, care about?  What am I already focused on that I can apply to my work?
  • What are the things I do effortlessly or intuitively? (This is a hard question to answer)
  • How could I experiment with those things in my work?
  • What demands do I place on others in my life, and why are those important?
  • Is the experience of working with me so good that people rave about it?
  • Do they recommend me and say that I’m worth every penny?

Here’s the ultimate test.

When people ask me what I do, how do they react to what do I tell them?  Do they nod in understanding, or do they have to ask for more information?

You’ll know you’re focused when everyone everyone else describes exactly what you do because they clearly understand what you absolutely do not do.

What will you absolutely not do?  To what should you start saying, no, immediately?

Ask that question.  If the answer scares you, then you’re probably looking in the right place.  Go after it. Run towards that fear, and then share what you find with the rest of us.  We could use your example to light the way.

I hope this helps.

Austin W. Gunter.