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5 life-changing lessons I learned from Keith Ferrazzi


Never Eat AloneA little over a year ago, I had somewhat of a transformational career moment. And, in large part, it came from the motivation caused by reading one book: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

On vacation my wife and I like to relax. So, we often plow through a book or two on our 4-5-day getaways (we spend a lot of time on the beach). Last year, I spent the bulk of our trip reading Ferrazzi’s book.

And, in a way, it completely changed the direction of my professional life.

Now, upon reading Ferrazzi’s book, I will say I was already practicing a few of the lessons he was preaching. But, there were a number of tips, tools and ideas I hadn’t considered. And, they made me think about my professional life, my community, my friendships, my colleagues and my work in a whole different way.

What am I talking about? Let me explain. Here are six ways Never Eat Alone changed my life:

* Do your homework. One of the many tips that Keith presented that resonated with me was the fact that he prepares a one-page dossier on each person he meets with. OK, so I’m guessing he doesn’t do this with everyone he has a cup of coffee with, but the concept is the same: Do your homework before the meeting. Research the people you hope to meet at events and it will pay off. I’ve taken this tip to heart and it continues to pay off time and time again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “boy, you’ve certainly done your research on me” during a meeting. Music to my ears.

* Follow up or fail. Admittedly, I’m still working on this one. But, I do understand the importance. Ferrazzi claims good follow up will elevate you above 95 percent of your peers. My approach: When I meet someone at an event or grab coffee, I now try to send that person an email within 24 hours thanking them for their time, re-stating what we talked about and following up on any next steps. Ferrazzi is a little fanatical about his follow up. He talks about how he’ll send notes to people he meets at conferences while he’s sitting in the next session! Like I said, I have a ways to go before I start comparing myself to Keith Ferrazzi 😉

* Help the conference organizer–better yet, be the conference organizer. Took this point to heart last year, as I had little budget to attend a number of industry events I wanted to hit. Namely BlogWorld in Las Vegas. After reading Keith’s advice, I decided to approach Jason Falls, whom I knew was running the Social Media Business Summit piece of BlogWorld. As Ferrazzi notes, conference organizers are often stretched and in need of help. While Jason was completely on top of this work in planning the event, he was open to the extra help. He seemed glad I reached out and took me up on my offer for assistance. Next thing I knew, not only was I attending BlogWorld (my main goal), I had the opportunity to meet a number of incredible people (including Jason) by virtue of my position (introducing folks, moderating panels, etc.). And, I’ve used a similar approach with other conferences and had success.

* Become a switchboard operator. Ferrazzi says, “Real power comes from being indispensable. Indispensability comes from being a switchboard, parceling out as much information, contacts and goodwill to as many people–in as many different worlds–as possible.” For years, I had heard the mantra “give before you get.” But, I never really understood what it meant. That is, until the last couple years. Last year, I attempted to help two friends secure jobs when they were in need. That experiment led to the development of Help a PR Pro Out–a campaign designed to help PR pros connect with new mentors/mentees, collaborate, learn and find jobs. Valerie Simon and I started HAPPO because we have a shared desire to make a difference. And, I think we both love playing switchboard operator. Whenever I meet with someone now, I’m constantly racking my brain to think about who I might connect that person with that could help them in some capacity. As Ferrazzi says, the more you do it, the more you become addicted to it. Eventually, it starts to feel like a puzzle. You have all the pieces–it’s just a matter of matching them up.

* The art of “pinging.” As a new business owner, this has been one of the most valuable lessons I learned from the book. But, truth is, I’ve been “pinging” for years. It just took different forms. In college, it meant daily drop-ins to a number of friends rooms. Later, email became the medium of choice. Today, for me, it’s a mix of texts, DMs, emails and Facebook messages (depending on the person and what they respond to). The trick, I’ve found, is pinging with a purpose. Yes, you want to stay top of mind with folks. But, you also want to make your “pings” meaningful. Offer up relevant content (a post you’ve read recently). Invite them to a upcoming local event. Or, share a recent professional or life milestone. Whatever, the case, don’t “ping” just to say “hi.” Ping with a purpose. It will make all the difference. Side note: My absolute favorite part of this tip? I completely copied Ferrazzi’s approach of calling folks and singing happy birthday to them. I instantly loved the idea when I read it, and selectively look for opportunities to do it with people I think will really appreciate it and not be freaked out. And, just as Ferrazzi experienced, it gets a wonderful reaction every time.

Note: Photo courtesy of Mike Rohde via FlickR Creative Commons.



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