Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Keith Ferrazzi: Who's Got Your Back?

"Invite other people in to be themselves" 
-Keith Ferrazzi
Keith Ferrazzi. He wrote "Never Eat Alone", a NY Times best-seller. Several individuals I respect for their business success had recommended that book to me. I'd even read an excellent Inc magazine article about him titled in part: the 10 Secrets of a Master Networker. 

Keith was in Philly on Tuesday for a free event (WGYB). The event was held at at the Park Hyatt in a Beauty-and-the-Beast'esque grand ballroom filled with a wide demographic of professional types.

I expected Keith to be a grizzled, bearded old guy. My pre-conceived image of a master networker. At 6:30PM (supposed to start at 6PM - but maybe that wasn't late - tip to remember) I was frankly shocked to see a youthful, boyish looking (and clean-shaven) guy. This is the guy who has 5,000 contacts? Who makes hundreds of phone calls a day? Who has Bill Clinton in his network?

As my friend pointed out, he wasn't the best public speaker. But, as he loosened up (or maybe I opened up), Keith really grew on me. It's one thing to have an opinion about something, quite another to have credentials (be an expert e.g. 5,000 contacts) backing that opinion, and even more different to be that expert and share and teach with passion and vulnerability and non-pretentiousness. 

Keith says that you have to have two to three people in our life with whom you can be yourself, be vulnerable. Two to three individuals who are generous to the point that they will not let you fail. Who make sure that you are held accountable for the stuff you say you are going to do. That the changes in your life have to occur with and through other people's support. As I know all too dearly, if you make a promise to yourself and don't tell anyone and break it - you're chipping away at yourself.

One of the biggest life-changing events of my life was doing a triathlon through Team-in-Training about 4 years ago. Vulnerability: Asking hundreds of people for money. The hardest part of Team-in-Training is not the athletic training - it's the fundraising. ($3,800 in my case). Accountability: My triathlon teammate Craig and I would call each other on a Tuesday and say 'See you at the Y at 5:30am Thu). We'd both have to show up that morning - otherwise there'd be consequences of trust. Oh, and once you start raising thousands of dollars for Leukemia, you have to learn how to swim one mile and complete the race. And I did. I ended up raising just shy of $6K and was asked to come back and mentor (basically, help new participants fundraise, keep them motivated) the next season and that led to a unforeseen logical leap 'Why not move to Philly?'

The elegance of Keith's presentation was that he had two interactive exercises. "What is your dream?" and "What holds you back?". He gave us five minutes to do these with three people (a real-life impromptu WGYB). I did these exercises with two friends, and people who had never met before the event or maybe were just co-workers (close but not intimate), connected for real, by sharing themselves for real. Just trying to articulate what holds you back or what your dream is with someone who is really listening is quite an amazing experience. As Keith said, what holds you back is a habit that is also an addiction. In that context, it's painful to admit what I am addicted to.

I didn't buy his book. I did start to be sold on his message. Who can you be vulnerable with?

1 comment:

  1. Wallflower, thank you for this valuable synopsis of the event. I agree with you that Keith Ferazzi's "common man" story and demeanor offset my original prejudice of his blue blood education. His presentation style was every bit a part of his overall personal brand and he seems to know this. Great insight into a really lovely evening.


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