“Sometimes you can’t wait for someone else to save you. You have to be the hero that saves yourself.” 

Relationships are the fabric of our society. Connection with, and to, the people we love most sits at the core of our overall well-being. Thomas Merton said it best, “no man is an island.” 

Similarly, our relationships in business catalyze our professional development. Through these connections, opportunities arise, and business deals form. Whether built through traditional or non-traditional channels, the importance of business relationships is undeniable. 

Recognizing this truth, I entered college fully, embracing the “your network is your net worth” spirit. I Started GWU in the Fall of 2012 with no LinkedIn and a network that stretched no further than the DMV Sierra Leonean community and my close-knit circle of friends. Now seven years later, I’ve managed to attract 1200+ connections.  

Although my LinkedIn connection amount does not fully grasp the value of my network, it’s a metric that expresses how seriously I took building it. To the extent where many of my GWU peers refer to me as a master networker. However, since leaving NYC last September, I’ve probably gone to the fewest networking/social events in a year since high school.

Then, a recent Ryan Leslie podcast interview reminded me about the importance of networking. It even refined my perspective. I began to think deeply about my intent behind both attending and not attending networking events. Surprisingly, they were the same; I was looking for a savior. 

I thought my valuable network would expunge me from the process, or that like a diamond in the rough, someone would come searching. 

“Savior Complex —  the belief that you need something outside of yourself to move forward.” —  Sarah Aluko 

Extreme 1: Your Network Is Your Net worth? 

“It’s not about the meat you eat when you hunt. It’s about the confidence you get when you can go hunt. The pride is not in making money. The pride is in the process of making money.” —  Eric Thomas 

Rule # 1: YouR network is not a substitute for the process. 

Entitled, I saw my network as a get out of jail free card. Not wanting to pay the price from my ambition, I thought my network could save me. Lazy? No, the desire for certainty. Unfortunately, the process has no guarantees.

One of the harsh realities I learned this year is that no one can give you success. It’s earned. Your network can teach you how to fish and may even buy you a fishing rod, and tell you where the good spots in town are, but they can’t fish for you. In other words, having access to successful people won’t automatically make you successful. It’s not transferred through osmosis. 

Late last year, I gained a real estate mentor who is doing exceptionally well — he’s got dozens of properties all over the city. When we first met, he said, “Nate, you’re going to be great. One day I’ll see you in the Washington Post.” With that in mind, one could imagine, sitting across from him during some of my lowest moments were bittersweet.

Sweet because his presence was encouraging. It reminded me that my dreams were possible. Bitter, however, because I knew he could save me from the process without significant damage. He could expedite my process to the Post. But unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. I had to save myself.

In a recent Breakfast Club Interview, Akon said

“Everyone has their destiny. And there are going to be people who come in your life that help you to fulfill that destiny. So, whatever success you have was going to come to you no matter what. With or without me.” — Akon 

Akon’s remarks challenge the notion that one’s fate hinges on the action, help, or acknowledgment of one person. Embracing that spirit, see whatever you’re pursuing as your destiny. Believe that it’s coming to you regardless of the network you do or do not have. 

Extreme 2: So Good They Can’t Ignore You? 

Opportunity does not knock; it presents itself when you beat down the door. —  Kyle Chandler

Rule #2: Only polished diamonds shine.

Transitioning from NYC back to MD not only shifted my pace of life. It also drastically decreased the number of networking events I attended. A few months in, my monthly average went from 3-4 to 0-1 events.

As an entrepreneur, I thought it’s about doing the work and getting things done. Yes, relationships are meaningful, but at the end of the day, I must DO! I must save myself! No more going to networking events hoping someone would say hey, “I like this kid Nathan, I’m going to change his life for the better.” 

Ironically, I did not depart from my ways of old ways when I transitioned to no longer going to networking events. I was still looking outside of myself for a savior. Instead of actively searching for the savior through networking events, I transitioned to hoping that the savior would come to find me. 

Only polished diamonds shine.

Meaning, so good they can’t ignore you is only applicable when you’re shining, when people are aware of the value you bring. If you are a talented artist, and no one knows you play, you can’t expect people to book you for gigs. People must be aware that you can potentially solve their problem.

When I first entered that copywriting space, there were times I got frustrated because I felt that I was better than some of the people getting more opportunities. But in reality, I wasn’t taking the steps necessary to attract clients. In closing, you’re not an option if no one knows you are playing. So don’t only get in the game, become apart of the game. 

Plant Seeds

See your network as a garden and each person as a seed. And like a good gardener, plant the seeds, be diligent about watering the seeds, and patiently wait for the seeds to grow. While keeping in mind that some will bear fruit in a month, others may bear in 6 years, and many will bear no fruit at all. 

In the Producer Grind 2.0 podcast interview, Ryan Leslie said the number one way to reduce your dependency on luck is to spend the same amount of time getting nice with your craft as you do getting nice with your relationships. Meaning you have to do both. You must put in the work and build the relationships.

This week I met up with my friend Livengood, CEO of the DMV Daily, and he dropped a gem on me that’s worth sharing. He said,

“It’s 10% talent, 20% your network, and 70% God’s timing.”

Grow Fruit

In closing, here are some practical steps to growing the right fruit. 

Master the Circle of 5’s:

  • Step 1: Figure out who is in the circle that is critical to your success? 
  • Step 2: List the Top 6 categories of people that are critical to your success.  (An example for the copywriting space: start-up founders/entrepreneurs, UX/UI designers, graphic designers, web designers, web developers) 
  • Step 3: Meet 5 people in each role.
  • Step 4: Be intentional and deliberate about building these relationships.