Net Value + Working = Networking

My fellow millennials,

Some thought-provoking books just transform the way you perceive the world. For me, one such book was Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I started reading it on the recommendation of Alex Banayan, a very young venture associate at Alsop-Louie Partners, whose accomplishments I dearly admire. As I progressed through the chapters, I began to freshly learn about the role played by relationships in my personal and entrepreneurial life. Boy, I was hooked. Through his book, Ferrazzi completely morphed my perception of building relationships.

Motivated by my reformed perspective, it took me just a day to finish absorbing Ferrazzi’s second book Who’s got your back. Soon after this, I started making what Ferrazzi calls a “relationship action plan.” One of the people on the list of successful people I would like to meet with in the near future is Ferrazzi himself. While researching Ferrazzi, one name particularly caught my eye: Jared Kleinert, the founder of StartsWith Insights and previously the founder of Kleinert Ventures. While reading up on him and his gap year experiences, I could relate with him on several aspects, since I took a gap year as well. In the process of admiring Jared’s entrepreneurial life, I stumbled upon the 2 Billion Under 20 book and its co-author, Stacey Ferreira, the co-founder of Forrge. Being inspired by the book, and impressed by Stacey’s success story, I reached out to Stacey. I told her about the dream I have of starting a global Millennial seed fund and she later introduced me to the 2 Billion Under 20 online community that she started with Jared.

Ferrazzi, in almost all of his speaking engagements, underscores how humans, anthropologically, once belonged to tribes and how we are destined to co-exist. After spending a couple hours reading up on profiles of several passionate Millennials in the 2 Billion Under 20 community, I told myself with relief and excitement, “Finally, I have found my tribe.” It has been literally (not the one in figurative sense) less than 24 hours since I joined the community at the time I started writing this account, and many cool people have already touched my life in profound ways.

While having a brief conversation with Justin Lafazan, the CEO of Next Gen Summit, I took interest in one of his other ventures, Students 4 Students College Advisory. After happily helping him out with a tiny task, he introduced me to another community called The Next Gen Summit and to some of his contacts.

Already, I was reminded of one of the most important lessons in building relationships — it should always be more about giving and less about taking as explained by Adam Grant in Give and Take. Always offer your helping hand before thinking of how the other person might help you reach your goals. A strange but effective tactic to genuinely earn someone’s trust and confidence is to market their ideas with a good intent. Help people in your networks get their foot in the doors of opportunities that they never knew existed, and your community will do the same for you. I had never imagined that Justin would end up offering to sit on my advisory board to offer his expertise and insights on my latest venture. As counterintuitive as it might sound, the key is to not jump on every chance you get to sell others on your products or projects. Developing a deep, personal connection with a person calls for a great deal of generosity and good intentions.

One of the most personable conversations I have had so far was with Marisa Sergi, the founder of RedHead Wine and Miss New York Collegiate America 2015. She reached out to me just for the sake of getting to know me as a person.

With this interaction came another important lesson. Sometimes, it is essential to put aside all your ambitions and get to know someone as a friend first, and potential business partner, client, or referencer second to appeal to their values and desires for building a good relationship.

My journey continued as I read some motivational articles including “Giving The Media Back to the People ” by a company called Usspire. I reached out to its founder, Mina Salib. His response made me feel like I am an integral part of this millennial entrepreneurial community right away. After a brief phone conversation, we ended up serving each other’s interests. He gave me his insights on content creation and I offered to get some graphic designing done for him.

Our conversation highlights that you shouldn’t start a new relationship with a pre-set mentality of using another person’s work or connections for your own agenda. If you are always genuinely interested in what others do and how you can help them, you may end up having a mutually beneficial agreement that creates a “win-win” situation for both parties.

There is always a massive scope for growth if you are the least accomplished person in the room. The first step to learning is to always walk out the room in which you are smartest person. I have had so many short, yet meaningful conversations that have planted seeds for several friendships and potential partnerships.

A great instance of genuinity was an email response I got from Fletcher Richman, the Managing Director at Spark Boulder. I could sense in his warm email how he had carefully gone over all my work since he mentioned one of the startups named Bitsbox I had previously worked with. He asked me what I might need his assistance with. It is vital to personalize your conversations with some content that shows the other person that you care enough to look him or her up to get to know as much as you can about them through online sources.

This experience kickstarted because I reached out to Stacey via a short LinkedIn post.

I believe Stacey probably wouldn’t have helped me as much as she did if the linkedIn post had been something like, “The speech is incredible. The book is brilliant. Lets talk.” She must be getting numerous emails saying how great a job she and Jared have done with 2 Billion Under 20, so I added an extra personal touch by letting her know that I have read up enough about her personal life to know that a tweet changed her life.

This tribe has already truly changed my life. I was speaking with Payal Lal, the co-founder of Social MOOC Taker, about how relatable our stories in India were and how I longed to be a part of an entrepreneurial support system. Well, I have found one now. Scratch that, two communities actually. I got in touch with Payal because I could instantly relate with her when I read about her story in 2 Billion Under 20.

Opportunities are created and not found. They don’t just pop up randomly. You need to be able to make something out of a situation you find yourself in and turn the scenario into an opportunity. If it hadn’t been for a delayed flight, Jared wouldn’t have heard the talk that eventually inspired the creation of the 2 Billion Under 20 book and its online community. By happenstance, he ended up in the right place at the right time, and then also acted on the idea when it came to him, which is something most people don’t do due to the fear of the unknown. If I hadn’t put myself in a situation to carefully read how Stacey met Sir Richard Branson through a tweet, I wouldn’t have thought of reaching out to her via a LinkedIn post. Opportunities are not hand delivered to you. You need to put yourself out there and be accessible enough for others to seek you out for a conversation or collaboration.

Regardless of how diverse their accomplishments are, there is one trait that ties all of the 2 Billion Under 20 community members together. They are all selflessly resourceful. They are all successful because of their willingness to help others.

I believe that you can increase your net worth and promote personal growth by investing as much amount of time, efforts and authenticity into other’s work and lives and more as you would in your own. Seems counterintuitive? Yes, it is. Does it work? Absolutely. Successful people have embraced what I call value-driven, service-based networking. In simplest terms, it is working towards adding net value to others. “If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get another person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own,” said Henry Ford. And from what I have witnessed so far, these millennials have embraced Ford’s ideals.

Those who think of networking as a collection of hand-shaking and business-card exchanging are inevitably setting themselves up for long-term failure, personal dissatisfaction, and professional isolation. Those who think of networking as working towards adding net value to their communities without any ulterior motives are setting themselves up for phenomenal long-term success and satisfaction in both personal and professional lives.

If you want to achieve success, command respect, and build lifelong relationships in your communities, start looking for ways to contribute to others’ lives. Position yourself to identify and act on every chance you get to make the tiniest difference in someone’s life. How can you go about doing this? Start by taking small steps. Evangelize someone’s work of art. Review your friend’s college essay. Introduce your baby sister to a friend of yours that has similar interests in music as her. Approach someone having a bad day with a genuine intent to show them the brighter side of things. Or offer to beta-test someone’s new iOS application.

Merely reaching out to someone in appreciation of their work can go a long way in relationship building. For example, I reached out to Rajat Bhageria, the CEO of ThirdEye via Twitter to appreciate his work and ask him when his company is releasing its iOS application. Next thing I knew, I was leveraging my network to evangelize his phenomenally relatable book What High School Didn’t Teach Me.” While helping him out, I did not think even for a second how he might be able to help me in my ventures since none of the things I do is even remotely related to what Rajat does. But, guess what? He was extremely helpful in giving his feedback on this article.

I also reached out Krystian Leonard, the founder of Shining Scars and Miss West Virginia Collegiate America 2015, to convey how moved I was from a video about one of her talks. I had no intention other than appreciating how she capitalized on her struggles to achieve success in her life when I approached her. Later, she was happy to take a look at some of the products of my design company and had a productive conversation about the business model of my company.

There are a million different opportunities to assist others around us. All it takes is a bit of hustling to identify them. I say so because who doesn’t want assistance? Who doesn’t like being appreciated for their work? Being selfish gets you nowhere. Being considerate and resourceful is the key to personal enlightenment and communal growth. By introducing two people who you think can help one another, you can hone your communication skills. By evangelizing an android application, you will learn a thing or two about the application’s development. By helping out an aspiring writer with publicizing her article, you might discover that you want to get into the content or social media marketing business.

You are constantly learning and growing while making a difference in someone else’s life. Most importantly, by serving others to further their goals, you will build genuine relationships that ultimately determine your net worth in the long run. Relationship-based capital is more powerful than financial capital. You might use all your financial prowess to reach the top of the mountain by yourself, but there is no fun in being at the top in solitude. Get up there with a bunch of trusted people so that if you stumble, you always have someone who has got your back, and if you lose sight of your path, there is always somebody to kick your ass to get you right back on track because he or she has your best interests at heart. How do you find such well-wishers? Try selflessly helping a couple people and see the results for yourself. But, make sure that you don’t reach out or help others in hopes of reciprocity. Even if the other person does not return the favor immediately, they will always remember your generosity and will end up being more receptive to helping you in the future when you need it most.

Put yourselves out there to start value-driven, service-based networking today. Let’s start now. Let’s help others. Let’s collaborate. It is never too early to invest time and energy in relationships.

Feel free to shoot me an email at sar@haribhakti.com to share your feedback on this article and the practices that you follow to keep yourself motivated, follow your passion, and network. To find out more about 2 Billion Under 20, email me and I can hook you up with its co-authors