How Did You Get Here Today?

This post originally appeared on the Coffee Lunch Coffee blog as part of NaNoWriMo 2016.

Having moved to a brand new country (Israel) in 2005, I was attending a five-month residential program with the goal of learning the language and culture of my new home. The mornings were spent in the classroom improving my Hebrew language skills and the rest of the day was spent making new friends. Friends that I hold dear to this day.

Together, 100 of us made our independent, yet parallel, journeys to get settled in our new homeland. There were immediate needs like opening a bank account or signing up for health insurance in a foreign language. Then followed the longer-term goals of deciding where to live, who to live with, and where to find work. One by one, we tried to find our next steps in a land that felt like home, but still required delicate navigation. We leaned on each other to make it happen.

One evening one of my brand new friends turned to me and said three words that stuck with me. She said, “You’re a connector.” Not coincidentally, by the end of the week, I’d read Malcolm Gladwell’s, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, from cover to cover, and learned my friend was absolutely right. For me, it was the skill that obviously helped get me from there to here.

Think of your own life. Take a deep breath and stop for a second. Clean your mind of emails, texts and deadlines and ask yourself something. How did you get here today?

For me, the connections I built over time became my community.

Often people think of synagogue, church or schools as the bedrock of their community, but no matter what your niche is, there’s a connection waiting to be made and a community ready and waiting for you. Your community will become the most powerful networking tool for your professional and business growth.

After spending six weeks in Kansas City building houses for Habitat for Humanity, my wife and I moved to Kansas City permanently in 2011. With two other adults and 16 teenagers, we created a self-made community that came together despite our incredibly diverse backgrounds. Other than the one Kansas Citian, we knew nothing of the Midwest and were expecting corn fields and rolling hills. Never did we expect to become proud residents two years after our first visit, but we recognized the strong sense of community that we could be a part of in Kansas City.

That’s because community is a powerful thing that can bind your connections forever.

When I started food writing, I knew all the tenants of search engine optimization and social media promotion, but the key to my success were the fellow food writers with whom I became friends. To this day, we share recipes, insights and questions in a small yet valuable “Whatsapp” group, day and night. And, if one of us needs a connection or an introduction, we’re right there for each other.

Community is why I love marketing.

Just as much as my wife and I love the community we live in, I have found a way to thrive within my professional community thanks to the friends and connections in the marketing world.

My professional connections span the globe and I find myself working closely with some of the same people I did the day I got started in this field. Perhaps it’s a symptom of be being a connector, or more likely, the nature of online marketing removes time zones and physical boundaries. A tweet or comment is all it takes to start building connections.

The most powerful tool in my marketing toolkit are the fellow marketers I can share ideas with, learn from and teach to. And in turn, we all get better at what we do.

As to how I got here today?

On a flight back from Seattle in 2012, a stranger noticed me reading a book that was given out at the conference, MozCon, we both attended. He reached over ask asked me which speaker had been my favorite. We chatted for the rest of the flight. After that flight, we met once or twice and before long, I outsourced a marketing campaign to his agency. More time passed and we were in regular contact when his agency was growing and I found myself deciding to leave the company I was at. When his agency was hiring a Director of Strategy, we were already professional connections, we had collaborated on multiple projects and perhaps most importantly of all, we’d become friends.

We didn’t meet at a networking event or happy hour. We made our connection at 30,000 feet.

So to steal Alana’s own words, don’t stand on ceremony. Send that email, tweet that author, ask that question and find the community that will help you find your true authentic self, and with that, your personal and professional lives can flourish. If you really want to break the ice, send me a tweet and tell me about a connection you’ve made recently.

After all, that’s how I ended up being invited to write this blog post, too.