We all live in our cocoons – our preferred foods, music, routes we take to work, and perhaps even the ideas we take for granted.
What would happen today if you said hello to someone you didn’t know yet, or someone you haven’t talked to in far too long? It might be great – you learn that the person missed you and it feels like yesterday since you last talked. It might feel weird – maybe you don’t have much in common anymore. Or it might feel human – like someone is taking the time to get in touch and is reaching out.
Photographer Richard Rinaldi is taking this human contact to a new level by asking strangers to pose as if they knew and liked each other – there’s a video here – and the result gives the subjects gratitude and a human connection.
What does Rinaldi’s work suggest? Reach out to strangers and people you don’t know very well. The results might surprise you – you might end up feeling more alive.
On Saturday, I rode as part of a group of over 800 cyclists who raised money for Diabetes research in the American Diabetes Association’s annual Tour De Cure event in Redmond, WA. This was the 10th annual Tour in Seattle, and we raised almost $300,000 for the cause.
I ride because I’m at risk for Diabetes and I have family members who have the disease. You should be paying attention because of the staggering public health and civic cause this disease is causing. The takeaway? We should all be trying to move more, eat less, and help people stay physically active.
Here’s an infographic on the cost of Diabetes – it keeps going up.
You can make a difference in a kid’s life. Yesterday, I learned that kids will give you high fives when you walk down the corridors of their school. They will enthusiastically participate in a gym relay and try to show you how great their reading is and how they can follow the music teacher’s instructions. And they are all happy to see a Dad (or Dad-type figure) in their classroom.
I wanted to get more involved in my kids’ school, so when my friend told me about the Watch D.O.G.S. program (Dads of Great Students), I volunteered to spend a day as a volunteer at East Ridge Elementary school.
Here’s a story on Watch D.O.G.S. that ran on the Today Show earlier this year:
Getting more opportunities to change your destiny might seem to be a dangerous choice if you are focused on loss aversion. But making more decisions (and creating additional ways to succeed and to fail) is another way of increasing your learning, opening more doors, and what Rand Fishkin calls “manufacturing serendipity.”
To folks worried about losing their time, the process of spending “at least 30% of my days filled with coffees, calls, and communication to folks outside the company from whom I’m seeking absolutely nothing and where my goal is merely to be helpful” might be ludicrous. But think of it this way: meeting new people ensures new opportunities. New opportunities beget other opportunities. And you can always choose whether to act upon (or merely think about) those opportunities.
My small contribution to this idea of manufacturing serendipity is to make a practice of introducing people in my contact universe. How does it work? Easy – every day I think either about questions people have asked me (“Do you know someone who is an expert in the non-profit world in Seattle”) or people who should know each other (“I’m new in town, and I’m wondering who would be some great people to meet”), or friends who are seeking new team members (“I need a professional Yak Herder who also knows Ruby on Rails.”)
The resullt? Between two and five personal introductions a day that have the following components:
The who – who are you meeting?
The why – why would this person be interesting to know?
The what – what is something that they are likely to be able to do for you?
The feedback that I’ve gotten from people who’ve been introduced this way is that this technique provides them with a great opportunity to connect, relevant context to make a better connection, and more opportunities to meet cool people.
What is an example of this sort of introduction?
An example might look like “Mary, meet John – he’s a Product Manager in Seattle who gets things done with a smile and is a great resource for learning more about Agile techniques. You should know John because he’s been a part of several small companies in the space and because he recently published an article in Fast Company – here’s a link.” I’d write a similar paragraph to introduce “Mary” to “John” and then step away and let them meet.
The goal of facilitating this introduction is just that – starting the conversation. I believe in manufacturing serendipity by connecting some of the amazing people I’ve met and making more of these connections every day. Is it work? A little, and it also increases the chance of meeting people who will enlighten and enhance your life (who you just haven’t met yet.)
Postscript – you should also read Fred Wilson’s excellent piece on the Double-Opt-In introduction, which as Dan Shapiro points out in the comments is an even more effective way to introduce people by making sure that they both want to be introduced – thanks, Dan, for the suggestion!
There are lots of things you can do with a fiver. I’d really like you to consider donating a fiver (one day’s coffee, a bus ride, a sandwich) to support research to fight Diabetes.
I’m doing my part by riding in the Seattle Tour de Cure on May 12. I would really appreciate it if you could chip in $5 to help. The last several years I’ve raised over $3,000 for this cause, and I’d like to make the number higher.
What’s better (a lottery ticket, or new people whom you know)
You might have bought a lottery ticket recently (I did too, by the way.) And you didn’t win. But you can guarantee your chances of making positive connections if you do a better job at introducing your smart friends to each other. Who knows what benefits this might bring? Probably not lottery riches, but definitely the ability to help people connect.
There are three important tenets of a great introduction:
Give context, both in the subject line and in the initial line of the email. If your contacts don’t know what you’re trying to do they probably won’t even read the email. I get good results by using the term “introduction” or “intro” in the subject line of the email, e.g. “intro: Bob, meet Sue. Sue, meet Bob. Making this subject line relevant helps your friends understand that you’re trying to introduce them;
Give the “what’s in it for me” (WIFM) value proposition. If you tell Bob,
“You should meet Sue S. Sue is a world-class developer and also has a knack for explaining complex problems to business people. She recently left her job to start a new thing and she’d love your input on understanding the sales cycle to enterprise organizations”All of a sudden Bob knows key things about your contact Sue and can craft a response that matches her needs. If you do the same thing for Sue to tell her about Bob, then you’ve helped her connect the dots about your other friend and you can step away and let them connect (or not connect, depending upon their preference.
Introduce, and then walk away. Ideally, the people you’re going to introduce are open to the idea of meeting new business contacts; they are outgoing and want to connect; and they will follow through on the request. But that doesn’t always happen. Some of your contacts may require “pre-qualifying” – or asking them if they’re open to the idea of meeting new people; and some people may not like this process at all because it makes them feel obligated to provide favors.
Your best lottery ticket is the smart people or “loose ties” you don’t know yet.
Repeat after me: the goal is to introduce two or more smart people who might benefit more from knowing each other than they benefit not knowing each other. It’s easy – you can practice making introductions several times a week and if you’re lucky, people will start introducing you to their smart friends too.
Quick – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Camp? I’m not sure if it’s “awesome food”, “campfire songs”, or “camp mischief,” but it’s clear that many people have indelible memories of camp life. Thanks to the Salesforce foundation and East Ridge and Bear Creek Elementary schools, I got to spend time this week with some awesome 5th graders and their teachers, and had a great time at Camp Cedar Springs in Lake Stevens, WA.
Hint. (I don’t think I am smarter than a 5th grader.) But after spending two and half days learning about forestry, fire-building, northwest wildlife, shelter-building, and camp food, I am definitely better off. As a bonus, the weather held and we had a couple of days of sun in March, which can be an unusual quality in the Pacific Northwest.
And the things I learned included:
Practical learning – how to start a fire with wet kindling;
Social learning – how to divert the attention of 9 5th grade boys for good when they can’t stay still;
and Overall learning – how spending some time with kids can make a difference in their lives when they see that adults are people and they do care.
So, a big thank you to the kids for letting me tag along, to Salesforce for making it easier to attend, and to the schools for putting on a great show and helping some 5th graders have a great time at camp. Add to that the fact that I got a much needed two-day break from technology and information and you have the makings of an indelible and great camp experience.