These 4 Words Can Help You

Networking, Connections, Mentors, Inspiration

These are some of my favorite words––words that I use a lot. What makes these four words so important is that they are linked––well, at least I consider them linked. For instance: when you are “networking”, often times you are building new “connections”. These new bonds, over time, could lead to one of your connections becoming more of a “mentor” in your life who might support and give you some “inspiration”. Some people use their networking abilities to meet more like-minded individuals who are following down a similar path. They use their connections to opens doors for themselves both in business and in life.

But a word of caution: Don’t just take, take, take from your network, connections and mentors. If you finally get to that fourth word and find “inspiration”, and you owe some of it to the people in your network, you need to flip the script and learn to give back. Become a mentor yourself, and inspire a whole new generation. Be that connector in your group. This is when life really gets interesting.

4 words, inspiration, networking, connections, mentors

These Are My People

the human store, frank armstrong, photographer, people

Frank Armstrong, Alpine, AR, 1991

People enter our lives in a variety of ways.

Some people we refer to as family––both blood relatives and those that are like family without the genetic makeup. You might be closer to some than others. This isn’t your fault or theirs––life just happens.

Then there are friends––some stay, and some go. Your taste in friends changes as you grow older and begin to see who you are as a person. Your priorities change and that’s when you realize you want to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who have similar life goals and dreams.

We also have teachers, mentors and advisors. Some of these people are hand-picked and some find us––we have no idea how they arrived on the scene, and frankly, we don’t care. We like them around. Some stick around even after their jobs are done. Some become friends.

And let’s not forget our loves and lovers. We are attracted to them for one thing or another. Remember that the beauty on the outside is just a facade to their inner-most beauty. It’s important to look beyond the shell because one’s inner beauty never changes. Love radiates from the inside out.

We the people. . .
People are people. . .
People are strange . . .
These are my people.

Who are the people in your life who have helped enabled you to do great things? You don’t need to have a large family, or a wide circle of friends to figure this out. It’s not about the number of people in your life that count. Leave numbers for bankers, accountants, and mathematicians to deal with. It’s the quality of those people that matters most. Make sure to thank them once in a while.

Focus on these 3 Powerful Words

michael donnor, connections, photographer

Michael Donnor, Connections, 2014 from the series Notes on a Paper Universe

Today I want you to concentrate on these 3 powerful words: Networking, Connections, and Mentors. These are words that you should get use to seeing. They are very important in today’s society where millions of people are trolling the Internet and becoming “social”––as in “social networking”. You’ve heard that term before, right?

People were social before the Internet––I’m certain of this. But the definition of being social had changed quite a bit from interacting in person, to then interacting via a telephone call, to now interacting via email, text massages and social media sites. We attend fewer social gatherings in person. They have been replaced by chat rooms, virtual meetings via Skype and Hangouts on Google+. I actually think our society is less social now even though we are more connected as ever to practically anyone in the entire world.

The three magical words (Networking, Connections, and Mentors) can be applied to your everyday life, regardless of what business you are in. You could be a corporate-type or an artist––it doesn’t really matter. When building your personal brand or climbing up that corporate ladder or even taking the leap to start your own business, it’s much easier if you have a defined and well-rounded network, a group of people who are connected within your industry, and mentors to bounce ideas off of, stroke your ego, and guide you away from a variety of pitfalls. The people defined by these 3 magical words should be people that you have actually met. People that you have shaken hands with or shared a meal. People who can vouch for you as a person, not just someone that is a connection on a social media website. There’s much to be said by this. Real networks, real connections, real people––real, real, real! They truly matter.

I love the social media websites that I visit on a daily basis. I get my news from some of these sites, I get inspired by words and stories people write, and I can catch up with family and friends. But I honestly would be lost if I didn’t have the core group of people that I refer to as my network, connections and mentors that I work with and speak to on a daily basis. They mean that much to me.

Today’s exercise: Think about these 3 sentences and see what you are doing in your life to fulfill them.

  • What are you doing right now to build and create your real, true network?
  • How are you creating connections in your industry without the use of social media?
  • If you wanted to have some mentors in your life, are there people in your network that could connect you to them?

A Thankful Reflection

I have been connected to a lot of people in my life. My most important connections, besides my family and closest friends, are the peers, mentors and the network of artists, photographers, collectors and educators that I have met along the way. I am very thankful to all of you, especially on a day like today.

frank white, turkey, panopticon gallery, photograph

Frank Sherwood White, Turkey, from the series Inflatables.

Reinventing You

dorie clark, reinventing you, bookI met Dorie Clark a few months ago at a literary conference called The Muse & the Marketplace, hosted by Grub Street in Boston. As I sat in on the session that she was leading, I was drawn in by her upbeat and powerful speaking voice and enthusiasm. Following her session, I went out to the mezzanine level where the booksellers had set up shop, but was bummed out when I found that Dorie’s book was sold out.

On one of my recent strolls through the Harvard COOP bookstore, I purchased and read her book Reinventing You. Now, I didn’t read this book because I recently added a new job to my resume (which I did): I read it because the points that Dorie makes within the book can be retrofitted and used to better your life, regardless of whether you are changing jobs, or looking for something new in your current career.

As the owner of a gallery, I spend a great deal of my time mentoring and guiding artists in their careers. Some ask me: How do grow as an artist and How can I connect to a broader audience. This book seeks to help people who are interested in defining their brand and those that are looking toward their future. It starts off with a simple first sentence: Are you where you want to be professionally?

Some of the chapters hint at certain things that I preach to artists. A few chapters that are pertinent are: Recognize Where You’re Starting, Who’s Your Mentor?, and Building Your Narrative.

Here are just a few of the lines of text that I underlined in the book that I didn’t want to forget:

“Everyone has a personal brand.”

“Just as your contacts are helping you, you want to try to add value to their lives.”

“Another valid reason (to head back to graduate school) is when you want to expand your skills and network.”

“It’s your demonstrated expertise––not your academic credentials––that counts in the business world.”

“There may not be one perfect person to be your mentor. Instead, you can focus on creating a broad-based “personal board of directors.”

“There are often underlying themes that guide us professionally.”

“Patience––and being honest with yourself about your real interests, personality, and brand––can pay inspiring dividends.”

“Your status is portable and transferable.”

“Develop Validators”

“One of the most important ways you can maintain your positive brand momentum is to be consistent.”

“You can’t buy goodwill…you need to build it up over time.”

“Taking control of your reputation and making sure it reflects the real you is a critical starting point.”

I highlighted two quotes above that I feel are extremely important for everyone in their careers, regardless of who you are. Think about who is on your “personal board of directors” and who your validators are. They are the key!

Follow Dorie on Twitter @DorieClark