When we are younger, we are the sum total of the people we interact with; we are labelled according to the group we inhabit. As we get older, this doesn’t really change. For entrepreneurs and business-savvy people, your network accurately represents your ceiling, your floor, and your future. I realize that can be a paralyzing idea; I chose to see it as a liberating idea. If we can come to understand the people who influence us, then we can change the strength, value, and direction of that influence and get a better bead on who we want to be 5, 10, 25 years.
So what exactly do I mean?
Specify who and why, its health, and how they interact with your goals. When you look around at your peer group, your network, who is in it? Do you feel like you have healthy interactions and relationships? Are any of them toxic? Do they cramp your productivity, your ability to reach your goals? The first step is to decide who is in your professional network and who is in your personal network. I’m not advocating doing a comparative list for friends you still talk to from college (at least not here); what I am talking about here is the professional contacts you interact with frequently, who enter into your personal narrative. With that in mind, make a list of who they are, why they are in your network, and what their goals are. If you can’t answer those questions, then that in and of itself might be an answer.
Go through your networks and analyze. Alright, you’ve made your lists. So what? Well, now comes the critical reflection. I’m hoping you have some ideas of your goals. They can be soft ideas, but they should be clear. How do the people in your network stack up? Are they flagging on their goals? How can you help them? Can helping them help grow your network? Could some of these folks become warm leads if you only followed up and resuscitated the network?
What does all this amount to? Well, a lot of questions. Being able to answer these questions will allow you to see your network for what it is, a living outline for future. You can adapt and change your direction, but if you are always carrying weight without knowing why, then you set yourself up to be dragged down, often without notice or warning.