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Networking Exercise

Lesson 13 from: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

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Lesson Info

13. Networking Exercise

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

In this lesson, the instructors discuss the concept of networking and how it can benefit individuals in their personal and professional lives. They emphasize that networking is not about using people or faking relationships, but rather about asking for directions and helping each other find where they need to go. The instructors lead the students through a networking exercise where they have to quickly find connections and referrals related to their interests or questions. The instructors highlight the importance of being concise and intentional in asking for referrals, and encourage the students to follow up on the connections they make. They also emphasize that networking can lead to life-changing experiences and opportunities.

Lesson Info

Networking Exercise

I love networking people. Oh, there's actually two! Twice as many as I usually see, okay. Some of you are probably feeling kinda like this woman. "No, I don't think so, networking is sleezy, it's not really my thing," right? Who's kinda feeling that way? "I don't really do this." I don't do this. What's wrong with networking? Using people, right? Faking it, using people, just ripping people off for self-gotten gain, just gonna hit and run. Yeah, it doesn't work. Eh, we need a re-frame. You got this all wrong! We're just asking for directions! I think probably most of you live in San Francisco. Anybody ever given someone directions? Yeah really, who's given directions? Okay, now keep your hand up if you've ever done that more than once. Oh, okay. After you give somebody directions, how do you feel? You feel good, that's really interesting, okay. So, and remind me, your name is? Nicole. So Nicole, tell me how this giving directions thing actually goes. So somebody walks up and says, ...

"Hey, I'm not sure where Union Square is," right? And then, what do you do? Usually, if I know where it is, I will tell them. But then it's like, I'm giving them a gift. Okay, so a pure stranger has interrupted you and asked for this information, and then you tell them the information? Yes. And then what happens? And then they go on their way, and I go on my way. Then they go. Yes. How do you feel? For directions, not used. I mean, a stranger accosts you, you talk to them briefly, and then they just leave and how are you feeling? Oh, a little empty. Yes, if they're accosting me, then I'm feeling a little empty. No, but does it cost you? This is my point, I mean, you say multiple times you've given directions. Yes. Why do you keep doing it? Because it helps them, and it's an exchange. And then sometimes I ask for directions, and I have no qualms 'cause it's a human exchange. Yeah. It makes me feel good. Yeah. So you like doing this. Sure, yes. Affirm. And when they leave, I mean, do you get a fiver, a bottle of wine, a Christmas card list, something? No. You got nothing. You got nothing, and you felt good. I mean you got used, and you feel good about it. And all of you do it over and over again. I mean, this is diagnosable, you know? You guys are diagnosably human. Guess what? We like helping each other! I'm picking on her only because we all do this. It's completely normal. That's exactly what networking is. You've never been in author land before. You've never lived in Nanotechnology-ville. You've never lived in Consulting town. You've never been in Digital-opolis, where they hang out in the Cloud. You've never lived there before! Guess what? The locals will help you. The reason those communities grow is because new people move to town! You know, come on over, welcome to Big Data-ville. We love it here. We're a little nerdy, but it's cool! You know? And so that's what people are doing. All networking is is asking directions, and helping each other out, helping each other find where we need to go. It's something we all need to be able to do. In fact, we're gonna do it right now. So I want all of you, right now, probably related to the prototype question you were just working on, or frankly, it could be anything. Anything you would enjoy a conversation with a really informed person about. I really would like to learn more about what it's like to sell a book. It could even be a personal interest. I'd like to learn more about this Asian Fusion cooking thing. What is the Fusion part? Do you weld them together? How does that work? I want to learn about kite surfing. I saw Obama do it, I wanna do it, you know? I want to learn about, you know, actually being a sales person. I've been in marketing all my life, and then we just hand it to, what do the sales people actually do? I want to learn about being a professional sales person. There's something you'd like to learn more about, and a conversation about that area would be a really great interest to you. That's the topic I want you to have on your mind right now. And when the music starts in just a moment, I want everybody on their feet. And actually, everybody come right over here in this corner, we'll move this table back a little bit, and this will be our networking shmooze party zone. So everybody, come on over here. Come on, everybody get over here. Right now, we're gonna do this for like five minutes. Come on, yes, you all have permission to ask directions of each other and you're gonna be helpful, and all you're doing, this is real stuff by the way, this is real stuff. Just find out the name of the person, later on you can write it down. Do you know anybody who knows anything about what it means to be a flight surgeon on an aircraft carrier? I'm looking for people that know flight surgeons on aircraft carriers. Move as quickly as you can, talk to as many of these people as you can, to see if any of them know about the thing you have. That they know, or they know somebody who knows, and they know somebody who knows a guy who knows a guy. And if so, you can follow up with them later. Ready? You got it? Move quickly, get as many contacts and referrals as you possibly can, music please. (mellow electronic music) Just freeze. What I notice is going on is, you're doing that really natural human thing. You're having a conversation. You're actually talking to each other. That's not what we're here for. Networking just means getting a referral. What I want you to do is move as quickly as you possibly, and literally, so, "Bill, do you know anyone who knows anything about nanotechnology?" Yeah, I do actually, one of the professors I work with. Okay great, can I get that from you later? Absolutely. Gotta go. Okay, "Do you know anybody..." I mean, all I want is the referral. I'm like, this is hit and run, okay? Wait, wait, wait, question? Yeah. That's not female. That's not female. That's not how we work. Bill, do you know anything about nanotechnology? Could I touch back with you later? Yeah. I appreciate it, I really have to go. Okay. Thanks so much. Better? That's as close to female as it gets, I'm sorry. Well, you know, design is context sensitive. You can move quickly. The point, by the way, this never happens actually. But we're doing this in a synthetic way, because the point is, when you're getting referrals, all you really want from that is direction. How long, do you spend another 20 minutes hanging out on the sidewalk, talking about directions with the person who told you where Union Square is? I don't think so. They're pretty short conversations. That's the conversation. Imagine you're strangers, by the way, you are mostly. I know you're really friendly at it, but you're technically strangers. I mean, literally, I'm looking for two or three connections, just remind me of your name, great, during the break I'm gonna write down that email from you later. So just, who here knows something, or someone who knows something about what you're interested in? That's all you want to know. Now try to get three connections in the next three minutes, go. Music. (mellow electronic music) And keep moving! Here's my check-in. I'm a little fearful, but note. Did anybody have a topic that they wanted to make some connections on, and they didn't get anything? Anybody get skunked? Like, "I didn't learn anything from anybody?" Nobody has a connection. See, I knew you were being too helpful, okay. Anybody only get one and, "Wish I could have a few more?" Okay Dana, what are you looking for? What do you want to know more about? Someone who's written a book that's built their brand. Okay, somebody, so I'm looking for people who know about brand building, particularly, boom, right there, we have books-oriented in brand building. Anybody else in the brand book thing? Right there, right there, so your one just went to four. Okay. Who else could use some more help? Daily vlog. Daily? Daily videos. Daily videos, video blogging, or daily blogging. Anybody know any bloggers? I got one, I got two, I got three, there's two right behind you! Okay, one more, give me one more. Who else would like a little more help? Yup. Does anybody know someone who has started their own small cake decorating or chocolate business? Okay, confection, bakery, cake decorating, you know. I've got one, I know somebody who knows somebody, that's fine. Now, by the way, that brings up the classic, like, you know, you ask somebody, "Gosh, do you know anybody who knows anything about nanotechnology?" "Actually, you know, despite being at Stanford in the engineering school, you know, I really don't!" "Oh, gosh, okay, well I'm sorry. Do you know anybody who might know somebody?" "Well, no, I really don't." Then one more question. "Oh gosh, you know, if you were me, what would you do next?" You very intentionally put them, not just, "Hey, can you fix my problem?" No, but "If you were me, what would you do?" It involves empathy. You're asking them, "I mean, don't you feel for me? Give me some help here. So if you were me, what would you do next?" "Well gosh, if I was you, what would I do next? Well, I guess I'd call Tom. I mean, Tom probably knows those kind of people." That's how you get the referral to the referrer. You think, "I gotta know the answer." No, I gotta know the guy that might hang out with people who kind of think they know what that means. My daughter, by the way, did the pastry chef certificate at Cordon Bleu in Paris, and she has a blog on cakes and cookies. I'll introduce you. You get her blog, you get her cakes, we're good to go. Okay, now, what did I just demonstrate to you by asking for this help? Well, you're on the way to prototyping. These conversations become prototypes, but what did you just see happen, as I was asking you guys to help each other? You never know what's in the room, and what's around you. You never know what's around you, and by the way, we've done this hundreds if not thousands of times, and I have never, ever, ever had anyone in any group ask for help on something that somebody couldn't get them some help for. Including, we were with a bunch of undergraduates, and literally, a girl goes, "I really want to meet somebody who is a flight surgeon on a U.S. Naval Aircraft Carrier." That's not really popular at Stanford, there's not a lot of that going on, you know? Four people in the room. I had to do this with 12 sixth grade boys from a prep school in Tokyo. It's only 12 people, it's not enough, they're sixth graders. They didn't know anybody, you know? And they live in a culture where you're not supposed to talk to strangers. This is gonna fail miserably. They did fine. Why? 'Cause they're online! You know, they know people online. The resources are there to help you, people are willing to give you this kind of help, just like giving you directions, but you have to ask. Yes, that's confrontational. Yes, that's not introverted. There is a bias in this toward extroversion. This is technically a form of confrontation, but you notice you're pretty friendly to each other. So, there is an activation energy you gotta get over. And, by the way, Linked In makes this a ton easier, the world is now configured structurally and philosophically to say, "Hi, I am open for business. You can talk to me, even if I don't know you." One of our students got 150 Life Design interviews, making fewer than 200 requests, all through Linked In. 75% of her requests resulted in an interview with a stranger in a significant organization with a cold call from Linked In, thoughtfully and respectfully worded. You know, that's a pretty high hit rate, I'm not sure you want to go for her list, but if they can do that, you can do that too. The world is happy to have a conversation. Give yourself a chance. You just gotta ask. Have a seat, good job. I mean, if you can have those conversations and you make those connections, if you all did this, if all of you followed up on the referrals you get today and all of you did one or two of the prototypes you thought of, I promise you, at least one or two of you, within a couple of weeks would have an experience that years from now, you would look back on and say, "You know, that was life changing." You know, after we met Doug Abrams, our book agent, you know, our life changed. We didn't think about things the same way ever again. So give yourself the chance for something amazing to happen.

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Ratings and Reviews


A fantastic class for someone seeking to optimize their life for a greater sense of satisfaction and especially for someone who is considering a career transition. We are taught effective methods for brainstorming, examining, and prototyping our options, and we are given an approach for the hardest task of all: how to make a choice when faced with multiple good options! Also great tips for networking and getting your foot in the door. This class was very timely for me as I've been struggling with making a decision on what my next career was going to be. I now feel equipped with tools that will help me make that decision with less agony and more fun! Also, I'm a huge fan of design thinking, so it was great to see how that methodology could be applied to making one of the most important decisions in our life.

Karen Vitto

Great course! Great for who like me is on their 30's starting life in a new country with a new language and have been out of the industry for 4 years. Designing new goals, making new networking and starting a MBA for some updates on my carrear. Really helped with some focus. Super recommend!


Loved this class! It was high energy, fast paced and well organized, as well as inspiring. It helped me to make more concrete things I've been thinking and dreaming about. I'm so glad I took it. I made great contacts and will definitely use this material in the future!

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