My first job out of college was with a company called Blue Pumpkin Software. Blue Pumpkin was a small software start up in the heady days before the dot com crash. I joined as employee number 6 and went along for the ride of my life. It was a wonderful seven years before I finally left Blue Pumpkin but I came out of that experience with friends that are still with me to this day.
After Blue Pumpkin, I went to a different company and spent five years there. The people were great but I never developed the same connections that I did at Blue Pumpkin. I didn’t come out of there with the same network and friends that will support me for a lifetime.
What was different between these two companies? At a glance they seem similar. Both are in tech, have about the same amount of employees, located in the San Francisco Bay Area and moderately successful. The mix of people was the same in terms of gender, education and culture, so why did I not make many friends? When I took a closer look, I realized it wasn’t the companies which were different, it was my behavior.
At Blue Pumpkin I would spend every lunch time with a different set of people. At this second company, I would usually go to lunch alone or with my friend who worked at the same company. There were several reasons for this, the company’s isolated location made casual outings difficult, I had a good friend working with me so my default option was to eat lunch with him and I was always busy with errands and workouts. Regardless of the reason, the end result was that I missed some of the best opportunities to make friends.
Sitting Around The Fire
Sharing food is one of the most basic bonding activities we human beings can participate in. It’s primal in nature and goes back to those primitive humans, huddled together over a small meal, sharing the food as they watched the dark around them for hungry predators. It’s a simple ritual with profound meaning and one that tends to build very strong ties. In fact, one of the books that I had read many years ago was a wonderful and rich tome of networking advice called Never Eat Alone. It’s by a man called Keith Ferrazzi who had developed networking into a true art. Keith’s ideas were simple, invest in your connections as you would in your friends. In fact, don’t consider them connections to be used when needed, consider them friends to talk to, catch up with and help out as you would a friend. I liked the idea and I’ve tried implementing it in my day to day life and yet it never dawned on me that the book’s title was Keith’s best advice. NEVER EAT ALONE!
Well, once I realized this I was quick to remedy the situation and my connections at work have never been stronger. So while a few weeks ago I urged you to reach out to someone in your network, today I urge you to reach out to someone in your office. Take the time and go to lunch with someone. Have fun with it, share yourself and listen to them share themselves. Make a ritual of this and try to alternate it with times at which you grab a quick bite to eat with former coworkers and old friends. These lunches will be the cornerstones of your network. They will build the relationships that you will still be relying on years from now.
Thank you to those of you who linked to and shared my post about forgiveness. It’s one of the articles I’m proudest of and it’s nice to see others agree.