It’s nice to have a lot of contacts. I like the idea of knowing a go-to person for just about everything and that the fact that we know each other makes us more accountable to each other.
There is something you notice when you start meeting a lot of people indiscriminately though. You open yourself up to what I call “toxic networks”. These are people who always manage to ask you or your network for favors but offer none in return. Or my favorite technique–they’ll give you a favor even though you didn’t ask for one and then expect that they can ask you for whatever they want. It’s like they are some sort of New York City window washer at a street light.
I don’t think people intend to impose. They often do not see that when they ask you for something that is easy for you but hard for them, they could be one of 50 people doing just that at that very moment. It’s not cool that it pans out this way but that’s just life.
So how do you protect against this?
1.) Don’t “network” for volume–network for quality. Having one good designer in your network is worth more than eight mediocre ones.
2.) Slow and steady wins the race. Network through existing networks you trust. Good people tend to attract good people.
3.) “Big” doesn’t mean quality. Some successful people I know also seem to ask for the most and give the least. It’s irritating but the way of the world sometimes.
4.) Don’t be afraid to cut someone off. The time you spend with people who drag you down could be spent with people who are actually quality.
5.) Don’t think of what a person means to you. Think of what that person means to your network. If you are ashamed to introduce someone to others, they are not worth your time.
6.) If you initiate a favor with someone, don’t be that window washer expecting a favor in return. Help people because you want to support something good. Then it’s easy to feel positive about life.
Introducing two people into what is a mutually beneficial relationship is a very satisfying feat. Introducing a good person to what I would call a succubus is not. I’ve done a bit of both in my time. Keep good company, play smart instead of fast, and you won’t have anything to worry about.