There’s always something happening in Toronto, and I go to one or two events each week. Most events have a social portion where people network. I’ve found this part difficult in the past. I tend to treat events as mainly opportunities to catch up with people I already know from the Internet or previous interactions, with the occasional introduction to someone new or a serendipitously overheard conversation that leads to more thoughts.
When it comes to meeting new people, I find it easier to focus on what people are interested in or what people need, and to promise to send them my notes from the event. That’s what I wanted to share in the The Shy Connector. Now that I’m moving even further away from the standard model of people who go to these events, it would be great to figure out how to structure the conversation in order to give the most value. If I let the conversation take the path of least resistance to the “So, what do you do?” question, it seems to end up going nowhere particularly useful.
Basic thoughts I can focus on:
What do I really want out of these small-talk conversations? I’ve enjoyed it the most when people recognize me from previous events’ sketchnotes or my blog, and we can launch into a conversation with a clear, common interest. I can’t always have that, and I should take the initiative to make other people feel more comfortable. What do I want?
For the next few events I’m going to, I’ll try these conversational approaches:
I’ve been thinking about unfair advantages in the process of planning my first virtual course experiment. What are the things I do well, and how can I teach other people those skills? It turns out that recognizing your unfair advantages is great for making better use of them—and for turning those unfair advantages into even more advantages. No matter who you are, there’s bound to be some things you can do better than many people, and combinations of those things can open up more possibilities.
How can you turn an unfair advantage into more advantages? You can use your strengths to help you develop new skills. You can use the confidence you get from doing something well to get you through the frustrating parts of learning something new. You can use your unfair advantages to build trust and relationships that will support you as you take more risks.
Over at The Smart Passive Income Blog, Pat Flynn gives seven examples of unfair advantages that can help you with business and life:
If you think about your unfair advantages, chances are that you’ll see how different unfair advantages are tied together. Learning helps you gain experiences and specialize in something, which leads to developing a network and being able to tell a story that’s supported by the strength of your personality. Hustling helps you make the most of those advantages.
Here are some of my unfair advantages and how I used them to create more advantages:
I read quickly, and I enjoy reading. This lets me blast through search results, technical manuals, blog posts, business books, and more. I don’t remember everything (that would be an awesome superpower!), but I can speed-read to filter through cruft and zero in on what I should read in depth.
I turned my reading into experiments. Reading lots of people’s experiences and tips inspired me to tinker with my life. Reading personal finance books and blogs encouraged me to be frugal, which gave me the space and freedom for bigger experiments. Reading about tools and techniques gave me ways to improve the way I work, including through programming and automation.
I turned my experiments into writing. Reading and experimenting gave me plenty of things to write about, and writing helped me remember and learn even more. Experimenting helped me build a life that supports writing and learning. I started by typing my notes into my laptop, and then I moved to publishing most of my notes online in this blog. (More searchable!)
I turned my writing into conversations. Writing helped me explore thoughts so that I could contribute more to conversations. Writing also helped me have more conversations, thanks to people who found my blog through search engines or stayed in touch after connecting for the first time.
I turned my conversations into presentations. I found myself sharing some things again and again, and I turned those into presentation submissions for conferences. All that writing practice and all those conversations helped me polish the presentations into useful resources, which led to even more presentations.
I turned my presentations into drawings. Tired of bullet points, I started drawing my presentations. People really liked them, so I drew more and more. Since I enjoyed drawing my presentations and people liked them, I started drawing my notes for other people’s books and presentations as well. And that’s how I got to this point!
Next up: I want to turn my reading, experimenting, writing, conversations, presentations, and drawings into teaching. =) I want to get really good at organizing ideas step by step so that people can build small unfair advantages that turn into bigger ones. I want to get really good at helping people be inspired, and to help them follow those motivations to their goals. Let’s see how that works out!
How do your unfair advantages connect with each other? What’s the next unfair advantage you want to develop? I’d love to learn from your experiences so that we can get even better at making the most of unfair advantages.
Do I have any unfair advantages that you would like to develop? Are there other unfair advantages you want to try?
I used to worry that relationships would distract me from what I want or need to do, but it turns out that marriage can be a wonderful influence. For example, my life is healthier than it probably would have been without W-. His experience as a bike courier and the trips we took together helped me gain the confidence to make biking my regular commuting method. (In city traffic, even!) I’ve graduated to thinking of rain as no barrier to biking, especially bundled up in my rain jacket, rain pants, and rain boots. (Not thunderstorms or snow yet; those are still scary.)
Yogurt was one of those things I never really liked eating before, although W- likes plain yogurt. Now we have a daily habit of eating yogurt. We started with packages of fruit-bottom yogurt, and now I’ve graduated to a bowl of plain yogurt swirled with home-made apricot syrup. Someday I might even grow to like unsweetened yogurt.
There are all sorts of skills I’d never try out on my own, too. We’ve built ourselves Adirondack chairs and a cage around our vegetables. I’ve helped patch and repaint things inside and outside the house. We recently poured a concrete post to support the deck (one of the posts was rotting). Now we’re learning how to properly lay patio stones on a bed of gravel.
W- is helping me build my exercise habits, too. The krav maga classes are a bit intimidating for me, so we’re working on building up my strength and confidence through workouts at home. I feel a little self-conscious about it being slow going, but he says it’s worth the time investment for him to help me turn it into a self-sustaining habit.
As for me, I influence him to take notes, track his finances, and make frugal decisions. I’m good at wording things, too. He’s older than I am, so in the beginning I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could help him learn or improve, but it turns out that I have things to share too.
I don’t know if my friends could influence me in these ways. I don’t see people often enough, I think, and it would be weird for friends to nudge me into, say, eating yogurt more often. W- and I are in it for the long haul, so it makes sense to invest in skills and habits that make it better over time. Why does it work?
Good habits rubbing off on each other: I can see W- regularly exercising and getting a kick out of it, and he can help me start getting the hang of it. I talk about decisions and my decision-making processes, and he asks me questions about investing.
Encouragement and positive reinforcement: I enjoy biking, but other forms of exercise are still in the “this is hard work, a little scary, and not at all fun!” phase. I am totally fine with hacking my motivation by turning it into a social thing, an “exercise date” at home.
Consistency: The other night, I was the one who reminded him that he skipped the previous night’s yogurt. We remember things for each other, and we can cheer each other on.
Maybe this is one of the things that partnerships are about. It’s pretty cool!
It might be interesting to get better at the meta-skill of getting better together. The better we get at being good influences for each other, the more we can improve our lives. This probably means being more conscious and deliberate about things we want to learn or habits we want to pick up, improving the way we communicate with and motivate each other, and maybe tracking the consistency and success of these changes so that we can celebrate or course-correct.
Onward and upward!