Did you know there is a direct correlation between who you spend time with and what your life looks like?
You tend to be happier if you hang out with happy people, more successful if you hang out with successful people, more pessimistic if you hang out with pessimistic people.
So if you’ve got some audacious goals and want to nudge them closer to reality, one thing you can do is spend more time with the people who have the qualities you want.
Business savvy. Well-balanced. Optimistic. Knowledgeable. And yes, successful.
If you want to uncover career-enhancing opportunities, rewarding projects, and a better life, think about the kinds of people you can start to surround yourself with. Because success rubs off.
How do you find these folks? Well here are some ideas about how to get started.
Understand that influential people can dramatically change your life
This has always been true in business, but the effect is hugely amplified by the internet. Success in the 21st century isn’t created solo. It’s built within a web.
According to Lewis Schiff, if you are connected to six highly-connected people (as most very successful people are), they each open up their networks to you.
A handful of good connections can open out to thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of new connections — and one chance encounter could do unbelievable things for you.
These might be the web’s “movers and shakers” — the powerful voices with big audiences.
But it can also be the perfect business partner, or the striking creative voice that gives a vision to your business. Your next business-changing connection could be a vendor, a client, or just a friend who’s really smart about marketing strategy and is happy to lend a hand.
We all have something to contribute, and we all have areas where we aren’t strong. A network lets you find your complements, so you can do more of what you’re fantastic at.
Focus on building an effective network — not a massive one
There are some people who seem to make a profession out of networking. And given the amount of time they spend socializing online, it’s tempting to wonder when they actually do any business.
Being social is great, but you don’t need the world’s most massive network. You need a few strong connections with people you feel a real resonance with. Sometimes you get really lucky, and those people have audiences that are on your wave length as well.
When you start building your network, focus at first on a few people — maybe five or six. Make yourself damned useful. Understand their work, what they’re passionate about. If they have an audience, find out what that audience cares about.
Pay attention — not in a phony, creepy way, but because you’re interested in what they have to say.
Go beyond social media
Most of us who work at Copyblogger Media met Brian Clark through social media.
We didn’t stop with chatting on Twitter about Phineas and Ferb, 80s music, and Fight Club, though. (Although that didn’t hurt.)
Social media is great for starting relationships, but when you get the chance, take things further. Trade emails. Go to conferences. Do projects together. Get into real conversations.
Copyblogger Media was born out of this kind of networking leading to partnerships, and it’s evolved into a bunch of bright misfits doing meaningful work together.
Don’t be creepy
One of the best ways to build a professional network is to be the kind of person other successful people want to be around.
Be helpful. Be confident. Know what you bring to the table — even if it’s mainly boundless enthusiasm. Contribute. Know how to give, and also know how to ask. Treat everyone with respect, whether they’re “influential” or not. And remember not to squee on your shoes when you meet your heroes! Being a fan is great; being a rabid fan is a little … scary.
The best kind of success — the kind I value — is measured primarily by the number of people you can help. Not by selling yourself short (that doesn’t help anyone), but by building something worthwhile and getting the word out. Making honest, real connections can help you with that. When you’re on a cool mission, the people who can help will find that attractive.
Discover where the influencers hang out
So where do you find this network? Well, you start by figuring out where they hang out.
Do they have a blog? What conferences do they go to? Where do they speak? What forums do they haunt? When do they hit the bars?
If you happened to be in Austin for South by Southwest interactive this year, I hope you made it to our party. It was a hell of a place to connect with bright people — online influencers, creative business minds, talented artists and writers, and an assortment of rock stars, ninjas, and (my favorite) goonies.
We like bringing smart, successful people together. It’s fun and it’s interesting, and we learn a lot from the connections that are sparked. We’re going to have some more thoughts to share with you on that very soon, so stay tuned.
How about you?
Ever made a connection that’s made all the difference in your business or your life? Let us know about it in the comments.