Networking – Chapter 2: Meet New People

During my time in graduate school I was inducted into an honor fraternity and attended monthly meetings with my classmates. The meetings would last an hour, but before the meeting portion would begin we would have a scheduled “networking time” for thirty minutes. This was a waste of time because as we learned last week the first objective in networking is to meet new people. You probably know a lot of people and as we have already learned everyone you know isn’t in your network. You should always be on the lookout for new and interesting people to meet. Your life is not static, it is dynamic. Things are changing all the time and you never know when people will leave your network and you will need some fresh faces in there to replace those who are leaving.

How to Introduce Yourself

The first step in meeting a new person is making an introduction. People make this way harder than it has to be. You don’t need to practice, you don’t need an elevator pitch, you don’t even really need a plan at all. This is an introduction:

“Hi, my name is Austin Lee, it’s nice to meet you.”

That’s it. Unless the person you are speaking to is extremely rude they will immediately reciprocate. The most critical piece is the very next thing that comes out of your mouth. If the next thing out of your mouth is the question: “What do you do?” then you LOSE. Everyone on the planet uses that line and let me tell you, people are WAY, WAY, WAY more interesting than what they do for a living. You need to learn how to start a conversation with someone that is memorable. Your introduction needs to be as far away from work as possible. Hang with me. We will get to the work stuff, but please don’t mess this up. Your conversations will be much more memorable and you will cover far more ground if you do it my way. After the simple introduction and response, ask a question about anything that requires a response of more than one word. I’ll include a list below, but you are a smart person, you can come up with this on your own. Use some context clues based on what they are wearing, what they are drinking, where the event is, what is happening in the town you are in, etc.

  • I see you are a wine drinker, I’m not very knowledgeable, tell me something about wine that might surprise me.
  • I thought for sure I was going to be late due to traffic, this place can be hard to get to after work, what’s your worst traffic experience here in town?
  • I see you are a State U fan, I graduated from there. Tell me how you were feeling last week during the 4th quarter.
  • I really like that tie you are wearing, I have such a hard time matching ties with my patterned shirts, tell me how you make it look that easy.
  • They usually have good food here, my wife and I have gotten into a rut with our restaurant selections lately. Where are some places you’ve been lately that you’ve really enjoyed?

This doesn’t have to be hard, it just needs to be different than “What do you do?” That is coming!

Having a Conversation

Now you are having a conversation, that is great. You are talking about the weather, or sports, or food, or just about anything under the sun. You are asking lots of open ended questions, offering short answers to their questions and are genuinely interested in what they have to say. But, you are going to want to meet more people. See, the reason you don’t want to ask, “What do you do?” right away is because what if this person is boring, or rude, or pretentious, or any number of things that would make you NOT want to do business with them? Let’s say you really wanted to meet a good accountant and you went to an event and asked someone, “What do you do?” and they said, “I’m an accountant at Long Hours Accounting LLP.” You would instantly start trying to set up a meeting with them and you don’t know anything about them. Now, you have all the power. If you are developing a good rapport, this is the time to drop into the work talk. “That’s a great story. Listen, before I let you go, I have to know what you do for a living.” Then take it from there. It makes the work talk really short. You’ll exchange cards and pleasantries and then you are off to meet the next person. You do not want to collect 15 or 20 business cards at an event. You want to collect good people at the networking event. I promise you that while it sounds like this is going to take a long time, it will take less time than meeting 45-60 people a week and trying to call them and set up coffee and lunch with all of them just to find 3-4 good people for your network. The goal is to be meeting people all the time. We will get into that later in the series, but for now, collect stories and people. You never have to talk work with people that you don’t want to talk work with.  

Networking – Chapter 1: What is the point of networking?


When I was in graduate school and for a time as a young professional I didn’t get the point of networking. I would show up a few minutes early to an event, scan the room to see if there were any cute girls there and then I would usually grab a drink and talk to my friends until the event started.

I figured that working for a Big 4 accounting firm as well as all of the people I knew from that world, would give me all the connections I needed to be successful. So, networking events were a chance to meet potential dates, hang out with my friends, and have free drinks.

I could not have been more wrong. I distinctly remember someone at my office being asked to do something pretty cool for the firm and wondering why they were chosen instead of me.

I spent a few weeks watching that person and noticed they were approaching the time before an event started more strategically. I watched her walk up to senior leaders of client firms and our firm, she approached people she didn’t know, she pretty much ignored the rest of us completely, and I never saw her talking to any of the single guys her age.

That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head: She was really networking. She saw these little periods of time before and after events as opportunities to build her network and it was time for me to do the same. So I developed some goals and began to get to work.

What is Networking, Really?

Networking should accomplish 3 objectives:

  1. Meet someone that you do not already know.
  2. Learn a little bit about that person.
  3. Determine if a one-on-one meeting outside of this event might help either party accomplish a professional objective.

Before we can dive into each of these objectives it would be helpful for us to clarify what a network is and what a network isn’t. Some people confuse networking for your network. Networking is the process of building your network.

I am on a personal mission to convert everyone to my definition of a network because I believe that my definition is the one that will really unlock your ability to be a good networker. I’m not just saying this because I came up with it, but because I have seen the results myself.

Your network consists of the people that will answer the phone when you call, return the emails you send, and will do a favor for you if you need it.

That’s it. There are no other parts to your network. Some folks will say that everyone you know/meet is in your network. WRONG. There are people I know that couldn’t get their own family to return their email or answer the phone when they call, much less do them a favor.

Some people will say that everyone you work with is in your network. I don’t know about you, but if you have ever left a job before, try calling some of those folks a couple times to get coffee or drinks after work and you’ll quickly learn just how connected you are.

If someone won’t answer the phone, return your emails, or do a favor for you: They are NOT a part of your network. The logical question is how do you classify people that aren’t in your network?

You need to also understand that people will come in and out of your network. Just because Eric from Accounting is in your network now, doesn’t mean he will be in your network in 5 years. This is a constant process of filtering based on the 3 criteria of phone calls, emails, favors.

You already have great ways to classify people in your life: Family, Friends, Colleagues, Acquaintances, etc. People can be friends and in your network, but not all friends are in your network. Yes, some friends might answer the phone, return your email, and do you a favor and STILL not be a part of your network. Sometimes, your friends might want to help, but are unable to help you accomplish your professional objectives.

Please don’t hear me say that those not in your network aren’t valuable. They are, most certainly they are. They just aren’t a part of your network. They are friends, they are family, they are colleagues. You still have dinner with them, celebrate life achievements, and hang out together.

But the focus here in on your network. The point of this series is to build your network. The point of networking is to meet new people, learn a little bit about them, and determine if you should meet with them one-on-one.


I’m going to be writing a series of posts about networking in the hopes that we can just dispense with all of the nonsense that is out there. Most of the literature and classes I have read and/or attended repeat the same tired networking tropes over and over again: Bring business cards, Follow up within 24-48 hours, prepare some icebreaker questions before you go, etc.

We know these tips already. What these programs don’t do is teach you how to really work the room, really make strong connections, and really meet the people that will help you win business and climb the ladder in your career. I hope the next few posts will be helpful for you in your career. Who knows, maybe you and I will do some business together at some point.

I’ve been a networker since long before I knew what the term meant. Until now I haven’t written down all of my thoughts in one place. This is a skill that can be learned. You do not have to be extroverted, you do not have to be “salesy”, and you most certainly do not have to already be successful with a large network.

You simply need to be willing to learn.

Taking a Break

I’ve decided to take a break from triathlon this year. Not from exercise completely, but from triathlon. My only goal for this year is to run the Atlanta Half Marathon with my wife on Thanksgiving Day. For a guy that typically is always training from something, this is a welcome relief. But, a few people have asked, “Why!?!” So, I thought it would be nice to explain.

Setting Priorities

The truth is I have to adjust my priorities and there simply isn’t enough time for me to do everything I really want and need to be doing in my life and so to reduce the stress, I have to let some things go. Triathlon was a logical choice because it takes up 12-15 hours a week. Obviously, I could have given up work, but I like to eat and sleep indoors.

Everywhere I go I hear people talking about how “crazy busy” they are and how they don’t have time to do it all. So, I decided a few years ago, that I wasn’t going to be a drone that just keeps adding things to my schedule. I set up a process to determine how things get added to my calendar. This isn’t perfect and there are seasons of my life that are busier than they should be, but I make a big deal out of keeping some time margin in my life.

In my current job I simply cannot commit to 12-15 hours of exercise each week and spend enough time with my wife to maintain our relationship. That relationship is my biggest time priority.

Choosing my Wife

I choose my wife ahead of everything else. And that means that I also choose her goals and dreams above my own. Last year she cheered me on as I conquered a Half-Iron Man event. She stood outside watching me exercise for 8 hours. This year it is her time to achieve and I’m not going to miss it.

In 2013 as I was getting starting in Triathlon and re-engaged in running, my wife one day said that she didn’t think she could ever do a 5k. So I challenged her and said that if she trained I would run a 5k with her. So, we did. A couple of days before Christmas I paced her as she completed her first ever 5k run.

After her 5k she said she would never be able to run a 10k. So, in 2014 I challenged her to run a 10k. So, she trained and on Thanksgiving morning she ran her first ever 10k and I was right beside her again.



After that you would think she would stop saying she could never do something, but you’d be wrong. Earlier this year she said she didn’t think she could run a Half-Marathon, but that she really wanted to get a medal for running a race. So, I signed her up for her first 13.1.

I have picked up a touch of plantar fasciitis and while I could probably train around it and complete my second 70.3, there is a very real probability that I would be unable to complete the half-marathon with Courtney in November. I couldn’t do it. I choose her. So, I’ve dropped out of all of my races this year except that race. I’m planning to lift weights, do yoga, and swim while I’m rehabbing my feet. I’ll start training to run in late August. That should give me enough time to be ready to see Courtney accomplish yet another distance.

I promise you’ll never regret choosing your wife. Ever.



We saw “Inside Out” last weekend; the newest Pixar film. One idea really stood out to me. The Joy character knocks over a box of fact and opinions and they get mixed up. She says something like, “These facts and opinions are hard to tell apart.” To which Bing Bong, the imaginary friend character says, “Happens all the time, don’t worry about it.”

I see that all the time. I’m sure you do to. Makes me more mindful of my own opinions and the need to not mix them up with facts.

Perfection as a Goal, As Close as Possible as Reality

I remember geometry. It is not a fond memory, but a memory nonetheless. I think geometry and I didn’t get along because I was too concerned with not being labeled nerdy. One thing stuck with me from geometry and it was the asymptote.

In analytic geometry, an asymptote of a curve is a line such that the distance between the curve and the line approaches zero as they tend to infinity.

Or read a different way: a line is close to touching the other line, but never quite gets there. EVER. This idea that the line never reaches zero came to new relevance for me as an adult. I bought a bed in 2005. It was the first big purchase of my adult life. For 18 months I slept in a sleeping bag on the mattress of that bed because I couldn’t find the perfect sheets/comforter for the bed.

I realized after 18 months that it was probably not likely that I would find the perfect sheets. And I remembered asymptotes. I decided then and there that my definition of perfection would be an asymptote. I wanted to get as close as I could probably get and be okay with that. So, that’s what I did. I still do that today.

I’m not sure what in your life you need to be perfect. But I know that you can change the definition of perfect for yourself. All you have to do is admit that perfection isn’t attainable and adjust your expectations. This might not be mind shattering to you, but to me this was huge.


Being Considerate: A Primer

This post is going to sound a little get-off-my-lawn-ish, but I’ve noticed a HUGE lack of people who are considerate lately. It’s evident all over the place: offices, stores, on the highway, in the airport. Oh, MY GOSH, are people inconsiderate in the airport. I’m not sure if people just aren’t being taught how to be considerate or if people just don’t care.

Why Being Considerate is Important

The biggest reason I try to be considerate of others is that it reminds me that I am not the center of the world. Inconsiderate people choose to inconvenience others in order to make their lives easier. This shows a glaring lack of respect for other people and their wants and needs. Too often I see people that don’t realize the world doesn’t revolve around them. They block intersections instead of wait through another light change. They stick their hand into the elevator to keep the door from closing instead of waiting for the next one. They walk 4 people wide down the sidewalk.

It’s always good to be reminded that everyone else wants to get home after work, just as badly as I do. Unless my destination is a life or death matter, then I shouldn’t inconvenience someone else.

The Best Way to be more Considerate

Be aware of your surroundings. That doesn’t seem very hard, but I am convinced that most of the inconsiderate behavior I see is due to people simply thinking that they are the only people around. If you are walking through the grocery store, don’t barrel out of the aisle at full speed, be cautious and make sure that others aren’t already pushing their cart on the cross aisles.

Likewise, if you are exiting an escalator, take note that there are most likely others behind you and keep walking. The bottom of the escalator is a dangerous place to stop and look around. This happens in the airport as well, people stop walking in the middle of the concourse trying to figure out which way to go. This could be avoided by making sure that if you need to stop and get your bearings that you move to the side away from the foot traffic before stopping.

The Second Best Way to be more Considerate

Punish yourself for your mistakes, instead of making other people pay for your mistakes. This happens all the time. Someone gets into the turn only lane, but wants to go straight. They have made a mistake. They have two choices:

  1. Make the turn find a way to get turned around and then go back the way you wanted to go
  2. Stop in the middle of the turn lane, hold up everyone behind you that didn’t make that mistake, and force your car into the correct lane.

Obviously option 1 is the right choice. Yes, you will be inconvenienced, but you SHOULD be inconvenienced, it was YOUR mistake. If you punish yourself for making the mistake instead of everyone else, then you’ll learn pretty quickly not to make that mistake again.

The Third Best Way to be more Considerate

Be prepared or think ahead. If you know you are going to an area you aren’t familiar with, Google it and try to get a feel for the roads so you aren’t slowing up traffic. If you need to stop to get your bearings, look ahead and find a safe place to pull to the side. As you are riding an escalator, look around while ascending or descending to know which way you will turn when you exit.

These are small things, but they can have a big impact on those around you. I assure you, no one lost friends because they were “too considerate.”

Parents should Teach Consideration to their Children

The reason I so firmly believe these things is because they were drilled into my head when I was little. Watch where you are going, walk on the right hand side of the hallway, don’t stop in front of people, everyone else has somewhere they need to be just as much as you do. These phrases were repeated so often when I was growing up I probably dreamed about them. My parents were hyper-vigilant about teaching us to respect the time and space of others. I hope parents are still teaching those values today.

(Header Image: danramarch)

On Death and Dying

I ran across this article from Esquire Magazine. It is a very tough read, but for those of us that have struggled beside a dying loved one, there is much truth.

Here are a couple of the quotes that resonated with me:

I told our family counselor, Julia, I knew things would get worse. “If I have to put her in a backpack and carry her to the chemo ward, I’ll do it if it means getting an extra day with her.” Julia is a kind woman, but honest. “Before this is over,” she said, “you will long for it to end.”


The way dying looks, or so I expected, was like this: A small group of friends and family gather around the patient, watching as she draws and releases her final breath. People hold hands and exchange glances to acknowledge how profound the moment is just before a doctor checks for a pulse and announces, “It’s done.”

The way it actually happened was like this…

Nicole’s pulse had faded days ago, to the point where no one could feel it. So we stood watching her for a couple minutes. She simply didn’t breathe again. No spiritual release. No change in complexion. No shift in facial features. She just stopped.

HT: @zatapatique for the link.

Image by: Seven Hills

Load more