Every month or two, I attend
a networking event here in Bangkok meant to bring various
In fact, I attended just such an event last night.
Normally, the events involve a speaker followed by
networking - in this case, a few superficial handshakes and
an exchange of business cards that will probably find their
way into the trash can.
Last night's event was a bit different.
The organizer, aware that prior networking events
fell far short of the expectations, sat half the people on
one side of the room and half on the other.
In a ten cycle rotation, we introduced ourselves in 2
½ minutes and the person sitting across from us did the
same. I imagine
it felt a lot like speed dating.
I met more than a few lifestyle coaches
I couldn't be sure had their own lives in order; two or
three financial advisors who may not have been financially
sound; and a couple of desperate real estate agents.
The only stranger among the crowd I'd be willing to
meet again was a pretty Swiss woman.
She introduced herself early on.
She was not one of
the ten people I speed conversed with.
She graduated from a Bangkok high school with a
friend of mine from the gym who showed up out of the blue
for his first entrepreneurial meetup.
The three of us chatted for some time until we
collectively made our exits.
In prior unsociable meetups, I'd have felt compelled
to leave as soon as possible.
Metcalfe's Law states that the value of
a network is proportional to the square of the number of
law is actually referring to Ethernet networks, but little
networks are connected somethings which, as a whole, are
exponentially more powerful than any of the constituent
Napoleon Hill wrote in Think And Grow Rich
about the disproportionate power one receives from
mastermind groups, another way of talking about forming a
Networking isn't overrated.
But networking events are.
Whever they've been, I feel like I'm auditioning but
have no idea for what role.
The others haven't been especially friendly or given
the slightest hoot what I do or who I am.
As a result, my interest in these types of events has
I used to think it was me in
I just didn't know how to "work" as room, as they
Apparently, I'm not alone in this belief.
Do a web search on how to work a room.
There have been plenty of books published on the
cold hard truth is that s0
Why beat around the bush?
Shaking hands with a smile with people you've never
seen before doesn't come naturally.
The average person just isn't that interested in
meeting a total stranger s/he probably has nothing in common
yesterday's event, more than one person I spoke with was
retired or semi-retired.
They weren't doing any business networking I could
get whiff of.
They were there primarily as a social occasion.
Networking events feel unsatisfactory
most of the time because the participants have such
disparate backgrounds and skills, and there's rarely a
bridge to bring particular groups of people together who
might have something to offer each other.
Ideally, each of us would always see the value in
reality, we need to have something in common, some kind of
shared interest or similar vibration, so that the
conversation flows naturally.
This certainly was not the case last night with the
Thai real estate agent I quickly tuned out.
Or the semi-retired American financial coach who sat
across me with his arms akimbo looking at the floor.
At last night's event, I wasn't in the
market for a real estate agent or a financial coach; and
although I collected their business cards, do you think that
if I were in the market for their skills in six month's
time, I'd be dialing either of their numbers?
The person sitting across the table must possess a
skill or product I desperately need or be one helluva nice
person for me to even consider saving their card.
I don't bother
offering up a business card anymore.
I tell the other party ritualistically handing me
theirs that I'll e-mail them mine later in the evening.
I maintain a scanned copy of my business card on my
Only if I deem the person a possible worthy contact at the
end of the evening (or if they assiduously ask my card a
second time) do I ever bother e-mailing it out.
Humans are social animals.
We need contact.
But how much contact do we need?
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell spoke
of the Rule of 150.
The maximum number of people one can have a genuine
social relationship with is 150.
Whether you believe the maximum number is 150, 125,
or 175, the concept is sound and the suggested numbers
probably not far off.
The maximum number is slight.
Any of us could add that number of Facebook friends
to our totals within 24 hours.
The word we need to focus on here is
can have over a thousand Facebook buds.
How many do you actually communicate with?
In Gross Miscalculations About Lost Friendships, I
documented that the genuine Facebook friends you're in touch
with online largely mirror the people you're in touch with
rest are weak ties you eavesdrop on passively.
You would have lost touch with these people without a
tear shed in the pre-Facebook and pre-Twitter eras.
You must have noticed that wealthy
and/or successful people seem to have huge networks,
rolodexes as large as some dynamo's Facebook lists.
They're invited to keynote speeches, charity dinners,
and celebrity roasts, and appear to know and be friendly
Their networks surpass the magic 150 by a long shot.
The conclusion outsiders would draw,
that I used to draw, is that the successful person
advanced to this pinnacle of attainment through his
humongous network, the value of the lucrative network equal
to the square of the tons of also successful people a part
But is that true?
Metcalfe's Law only states the value of
a network in terms of the number of people part of it.
It's the business gurus and laymen establishing the
assumed link that the huge network lead to the success. It's
practically a mantra by now:
expand your network and then expand it some more, for
without a valuable network, success remains elusive.
Rather, it looks like success is more
responsible for an expanded and valuable network than the
other way around.
Just look at a few examples.
The author Amanda Hocking has recently been trumpeted
as an e-Book heroine, becoming, in less than two years, one
of the best-selling eBook authors of all time.
She went from broke to multimillions within two
years. Was it
robust networking that got her to the top?
It doesn't look like it.
She placed a few rejected eBooks on Amazon and
Smashwords, paid heed to a few tips of literary advice she'd
read on other author blogs, and the books took off within 6
after she succeeded did other already successful authors
join her network.
Take Steve Jobs.
When he started Apple in 1976, he wasn't a member of
any shimmering networks.
He, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne worked out of
Jobs' parents' garage since they couldn't afford to work
They were later able to gain the financial and business
support of multi-millionaire Mike Markkula, and Markkula was
surely a factor in Apple's eventual success.
Jobs' eventual luminous network, including
billionaires Lawrence Ellison and Bill Gates, came later,
after it was an established fact he'd 'made it'.
Let's move on to the actor Brad Pitt.
How large do you think his network was when he
arrived in Hollywood in the 1980's?
After he rose the ranks up to the A-list, his network
consists of plenty of other famous movie and TV stars.
Notice how common it is for one famous star to marry
another one, like Michael Jackson did with Lisa Marie
Presley or Pitt did with his first wife Jennifer Aniston.
Had Pitt remained a nobody, you can forget that
marriage ever happening.
It's relatively easy to expand your
network to meteoric proportions once you have a certain
amount of status or success behind you.
You have easy access to greater talent and more
99% of people will gladly pick up the phone when you
The Rule of 150 (or whatever the magic
number is) holds as firmly at the top as it does for any of
us at the bottom.
You simply cannot have intimate contacts with an
infinite number of people.
It's true that the rich and famous seem to know a lot
of people they could call on for favors.
The legendary actor Jack Nicholson has said that "The
average celebrity meets, in one year, ten times the amount
of people that the average person meets in his entire life."
Let's say the
President of the United States rings you up tomorrow and
asks if you can deliver a favor for no financial
Odds are you would say yes, but you're not part of
his network, and you won't be even after you've performed.
You'll receive a photocopied letter from the White
House thanking you for your services to the Land of the
status individuals can ask favors from low status ones who
are grateful to perform them!
I had a very wealthy relative pass away
last year. I
didn't know him well, but I got to observe him closely on a
I suspect he didn't have a lot of real friends or, to put it
another way, deep contacts with many people.
He did, however, have a lot of social contacts.
He was friendly with a wide range of people.
Because he was important to his community and the
people whose numbers he collected also possessed a high
level of status, maintaining these contacts, whether they
were 150 or 250 or 500, didn't require a lot of work.
He just had to invite them to a wedding or a car show
or have a group lunch with a bunch of them once a year.
Networking from on high involves less
work with more reward.
Down in the real world, you have to work longer to
meet less appropriate contacts, and what's more, spend real
time to keep them an active part of your network.
And because you have to devote more time to
preserving these connections, a strong consideration in
choosing whether to perpetuate the contact comes down to a
very simple qualification:
do you like him or her?
Is spending time with this other person painful or
People at the top needn't make this
distinction because they don't have to spend quality time
with anyone to get favors performed.
If Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ever needs a
financial advisor, he can call up any number of finance
billionaires such as George Soros or John Paulson, whether
or not he's ever met them, and ask for a referral.
Zuckerberg wouldn't have to like the billionaire he
consulted or the advisor he eventually hired; and if it were
Soros or Paulson or another billionaire in that exclusive
club offering the recommendation, Zuckerberg could rest easy
that his money was actually working for him.
Your or I, in comparison, would be
solicited at networking events by much lower quality
All of these prospects would need to be seriously
vetted by us, and you likely wouldn't make time to go to
that stage unless the advisor quickly impressed you with his
financial savvy or was someone you took a liking to and
wanted to see again.
When starting out, a super competent,
reliable, and vast network is always appreciated but not
need a small group of people with skills and expertise you
trust. It may
only consist of one other person.
If you can use the little you have to make giant
strides on the success ladder, the larger and more competent
network will naturally follow without considerable effort.
Don't sweat it.
I don't anymore.
You don't have to feel guilty for blowing off that
next networking meetup if you have somewhere else you'd much
rather be. The
place you'd much rather be has as much chance of offering
you a life-changing contact as anywhere else.