“Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up

because they are looking for ideas.”

-Paula Poundstone[1]

Content created by Darin Gerdes. Copyright Great Business Networking.

I enjoy meeting new people. Last week I got to know two amazing people that I will introduce you to in this lesson. These were follow-up meetings that flowed out of networking events. Such meetings are called one-to-ones. It’s where you really get to know what the other person does.
At a networking event, you might exchange business cards but you have not really networked yet. Passing out more business cards is not the key to success. It is not about the quantity of connections but quality of the connections. In fact, I know of no business that has been passed my direction on the strength of my business card alone. Exchanging business cards is only a first step. All of the business that has come to me through networking has come after follow-up meetings. People have to know you and trust you before they’re willing to vouch for you—which is really what is happening when someone makes a referral.
It is amazing what an hour of intentional listening can do to help you connect with another person. These conversations bring nuance and perspectives that I otherwise would not have gained. Sure, I may understand that you work in a particular industry, and I have a rough understanding of what you do, but until we sit down and really get to talk, I will not know just how much you bring to the table. Once we’ve met, however, I may feel comfortable enough to refer you to others in my network.
Yesterday I met with Scott Lamberson, the owner of Solutions Cleaning, a company that specializes in cleaning floors. Scott is fairly new to our networking group so I was trying to explain how one-to-one’s work. I told him to forget about selling anyone in the networking group. As others get to know him, if they have a need for what he does, they will come to him. After all, the purpose of the networking group is to create additional sets of eyes and ears who will look out for each other’s interests, pass referrals, and open doors. Trying to sell these people is shortsighted.
Scott and I talked about his business model and what we could do to help each other moving forward. We are both richer for the investment in time. I am more valuable to my own network because I now know this gentleman and what he can do for others. This is networking.
A Networking Action Plan
Too often, networking happens in a haphazard fashion. Life gets in the way, and in spite of our good intentions, networking takes a backseat to the urgent demands of business. What we really need is an organized plan to network effectively. That’s what we will talk about in the next two lessons.
In Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi outlined a Networking Action Plan (NAP) on which these lessons are based. The concept is Ferrazzi’s, and I want to be sure to give him full credit. A number of authors walk their readers through similar step-by-step plans, and I have found value in many of them, but this plan is particularly useful. One thing that I appreciate is how much he emphasizes the value of relationships as the key to success.
Step One: Find Your Passion
Ferrazzi began by first taking a step back, asking his readers to think about what they really want. We did a bit of this when we talked about our Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in Lesson 4, so this should sound familiar. First, identify your passions. This is not technically part of the NAP, but a prerequisite to help you identify where you want to go in life. He wrote:
Have you ever sat down and thought seriously about what you truly love? What you’re good at? What you want to accomplish in life? What are the obstacles that are stopping you? Most people don’t. They accept what they ‘should’ be doing rather than take time to figure out what they want to be doing
We all have our own loves, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique capabilities. And we have to take those into account in figuring out where our talents and desires intersect. That intersection is what I call your ‘blue flame’—where passion and ability come together.[2]
Ferrazzi chose to use the blue flame metaphor because it is commonly thought to be the hottest part of the fire.[3] It is also a term venture capitalists use to describe someone who will do anything for the company—someone who has the intensity to make things happen.[4]
Remember Scott? He is passionate about cleaning floors. I would clean floors if I had to in order to support my family. He wants to. He derives great satisfaction from his work. The more filthy the floor, the greater the satisfaction he takes from making it shine. He talks about cleaning like an artist talks about his painting. It’s remarkable.
It’s remarkable in a good way. I know of no truly successful people that aren’t like Scott. If you love what you do, you have an internal motivation to get up early and stay up late. Time goes by quickly. It’s a state that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow, and it is a key to happiness.[5]
In Good to Great, Jim Collins outlined his formula for finding an organization’s blue flame. He called it the Hedgehog Concept because hedgehogs are really good at doing the one thing that they do best.[6] He explained it with three circles. The three circles usually applies to businesses, but it is just as appropriate for the small businessman who is trying to focus on his USP. Collins wrote:
A Hedgehog Concept is a simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of the following three circles:

  1. What you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at). This discerning standard goes far beyond core competence. Just because you possess a core competence doesn’t necessarily mean you can be the best in the world at it. Conversely, what you can be the best at might not even be something in which you are currently engaged.
  2. What drives your economic engine. All the good-to-great companies attained piercing insight into how to most effectively generate sustained and robust cash flow and profitability. In particular, they discover the single denominator—profit per x—that have the greatest impact on their economics. (It would be cash flow per x in the social sector).
  3. What you are deeply passionate about. The good-to-great companies focused on those activities that ignited their passion. The idea here is not to stimulate passion but to discover what makes you passionate.[7]

During my one-to-one with Scott, his phone rang. He glanced at it and started to put it away, not wanting to be rude. I told him to take the call because I didn’t want him to potentially lose business. I was looking down at my own to-do list when my thoughts were interrupted by Scott saying, “ABSOLUTELY,” while writing down the name and address of a potential client.
One of his leads was bearing fruit. It was a franchisee that owned nine stores. He calculated that this one lead would keep him busy three days a month if everything worked out. He was glowing. There is some wisdom to the idea, “Do what you love and the money will follow.”[8] Just be sure that what you love is guided by the discipline of the three circles.

  1. Look Inside

Ferrazzi next asked his readers to conduct a self-assessment. What do you really want to do? You must answer this question honestly, without self-censoring. You need to ask yourself what you really want to do. Don’t think about the reality of your current situation. Think about what you want to do. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? What if money was not an issue? If you were independently wealthy, would you do that thing anyway?  Ferrazzi explained:
When I’m in the right frame of mind, I start to create a list of dreams and goals. Some are preposterous; others are overly pragmatic. I don’t attempt to censure or edit the nature of the list—I put anything and everything down. Next to that first list, I write down in a second column all the things that bring me joy and pleasure: the achievements, people, and things that move me. The clues can be found in the hobbies you pursue in the magazines, movies, books you enjoy. Which activities excite you the most, or you don’t even notice the hours that pass?
When I’m done, I start to connect these two lists, looking for intersections, that sense of direction or purpose. It’s a simple exercise, but the results can be profound.[9]
I want to add one more level to this section. Look carefully at the overlap between your innate abilities and your skills. God created you with certain aptitudes and talents. You enhanced those aptitudes and talents over time as you learned new things. Because certain things came more easily to you, it’s likely that you spent more time developing natural aptitudes than you spent overcoming perceived deficiencies. That overlap between your natural aptitudes and your developed competencies provides a powerful clue about what you should be doing.

  1. Look outside

Next, ask people that know you well to describe your abilities, skills, and talents. Just ask important, ask them about your deficiencies. Do not skip this step. Do not rely on your own perception. We are prone to deceiving ourselves, but I found that others’ perspectives are valuable. Other people who know you well can provide a mirror from which we can learn if we are open to their input. For example, if you think that you are incredibly organized, but everyone you know says that you are not, listen to what they have to say.
At a minimum, you should find out why they believe what they believe. Do not discount their impressions. They gain nothing by offering you this kind of feedback.  They are extending you a kindness. King Solomon wrote, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”[10] Listen and learn from them.
For this reason, I asked Teri McGraw, A certified Master Coach and the Founder of the Center for Quality Coaching if she had any advice about finding your mission and purpose. She replied:
Too often we think about reasons why we might not accomplish those goals instead of believing that we can accomplish our goals.  Secondly, it is important to work with another person, someone who supports your thoughts and actions, who challenges your barriers, someone who offers themselves as a sounding board and believes in what you can do, and someone who applauds with you when you reach your success.  Some people share with a spouse, some have a friend, and others hire a coach.  We want to reach out and support one another because “We are all on this ship together.”
Teri also offered a number of diagnostic questions to help you move forward as you pursue your goals. She said:
Only you can be in control of your thoughts and actions. Think for yourself and answer questions like these:

  1. What goals am I willing to work hard to achieve?
  2. When do I want to achieve this goal?
  3. What will I do now?
  4. What are the barriers?
  5. How will I handle the barriers?[11]

Most of the time, others will confirm what you already know. If your dreams, your internal self-assessment, and your external assessment line up, you can be confident that you are on the right track. When you have completed this step, you should have an accurate picture of what you should do.
Now it is your turn. Take time to complete the actionable items. It’s one thing to learn about your mission and purpose. It’s another to take the time to think through your mission and purpose. 
Actionable items:
Step One: Find your Passion: What is it that you are truly passionate about?
What is at the intersection of your three Circles?
Adapted from Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don’t. New York, NY: HarperBusiness. (p. 96).
What can I be the best at?
What drives my economic engine?
What lies at the intersection of my passion, what I am best at, and what drives my economic engine?

  1. Look Inside.

A) First, create a list of dreams and goals
B) Next, create a list of what brings you joy.
C) Now compare your aptitudes with your skills.
Where is the overlap between your dreams, what brings you joy, and your skills and abilities?

  1. Look outside. Have others review your skills, abilities, and deficiencies.
  1. A) Reviewer #1 – Skills, abilities, and deficiencies.


  1. B) Reviewer #2 – Skills, abilities, and deficiencies.


  1. C) Reviewer #3 – Skills, abilities, and deficiencies.

What does the data tell you? Do your dreams, your internal self-assessment, and your external assessment line up? If so, take the next steps and determine what you are going to do about it.
What goals am I willing to work hard to achieve?
When do I want to achieve this goal?
What will I do now?
What are the barriers?
How will I handle barriers?
End Notes
[1] O’Boyle, G. (2012). Quotes, jokes & anecdotes: How to spend two hours chuckling. Leicester: Matador.
(p. 27)
[2] Ferrazzi, K., & Raz, T. (2014). Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. Crown Business. (p. 26).
[3] What effect does color have on heat. (n.d.) UCSB Science line. Retrieved from http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=4010 Please note that the blue flame is a metaphor based on the general properties of increased heat. It is not necessarily the hottest flame. Much depends on the type of fire, chemicals, involved, etc., but that is not the point. It is just a metaphor.
[4] Bort, J. (2016, May 10). There’s a secret term VCs Use to insult some founders: ‘not blue flame enough.’ Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/what-vcs-mean-by-the-term-blue-flame-2016-5
[5] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
[6] Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don’t. New York, NY: HarperBusiness. (p. 98).
[7] Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap … and others don’t. New York, NY: HarperBusiness. (pp. 95-96).
[8] Sinetar, M. (1989). Do what you love, the money will follow: Discovering your right livelihood. New York, N.Y: Dell Pub.
[9] Ferrazzi, K., & Raz, T. (2014). Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. Crown Business. (p. 28).
[10] Proverbs 15:22
[11] Personal interview with Teri McGraw