I was sitting in my office with 2 of my team members here at Carrot spitballing ideas… and Alex on our team asked a simple question that inspired this post. It’s funny where brainstorming sessions can lead sometimes. This one made me look back and connect the dots on what took me from a financially broke introvert, to well connected, to my first million dollars (and beyond).
We produce a lot of content here at Carrot. Sometimes 4+ hours of video content and at least 1 solid article a week.
But the type of writing I enjoy the most is writing about the things I’m passionate about.
Entrepreneurship. Leadership. Mindset. Passion projects. Lifestyle.
Those things absolutely fire me up.
But the problem is…
… I sometimes hit writers’ block. And this day was no different.
So Alex shot a question (and an idea) at me…
“You’re pretty well networked… how did that happen and what role has that played in success so far?”
So I got to thinking and jotted down a “quick” map of some of the key people I’ve met and built relationships with over the years that have accidentally led to amazing things in business in life… then figured out how I met and connected with them along the way.
Really, luck played a role.
But ultimately I found some ways to crack through and stand out to influential people and how to surround myself with amazing people that inspire me every day.
Here we go.
11 Practical Tips I Used To Network My Way To My First Million Dollars
1. Networking isn’t about an elevator pitch or an exchange of cards.
First off, stop using the word networking. It makes me cringe when people invite me to “networking” meetings. Networking sucks. One of the official definitions of the word “networking” is to “interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.”
Networking as most people know it (and do it) always has a self-serving mission behind it.
Instead, change your mindset to “serving others with my unique gifts” and just focus on that. It’s way more fun and a lot less pressure.
Networking usually ends up not working.
You don’t want to be “that guy” (or gal).
2. Collect people and ideas, not cars.
I drive a 2014 Chevy pickup. My family and I live in a modest house. I actually semi-despise “things”. Yes, I’ve got some pretty nice things that I splurged on like our vacation home and trips and things like that. But I don’t collect things.
What I truly have grown to love is collecting great people and amazing ideas.
So in your goals for this year jot down some goals for amazing people you want to meet and relationships you want to strengthen as much as you focus on accumulating cash in your bank account.
These awesome people and ideas increase the amount of “luck” you’ll experience in your life.
3. Make ’em feel like the most interesting ones in the room.
You’ll be able to talk soon enough. Just genuinely give a crap about THEM before you even think about talking about yourself. As an example, I was at an event and met a very successful businessman for the first time who had been an executive at some companies you’ve heard of and founded several very successful companies as well. The conversation started out the same way they normally do…
HIM: “Hi I’m [name], nice to meet you”
ME: “Hey [name], great to meet you too… I’m Trevor”
HIM: “What do you do Trevor?”
Then this is where I always shift the convo off of me and onto them. So they can talk about themselves, the great stuff they’re doing, and their passions. Listen. To. Them. As this Forbes column on charisma says on tips #4 and #5… “Make the conversation about the other person” and “Be a good listener”.
I knew this person had a really cool background at some amazing companies you’ve heard of and I was genuinely curious about the cool stuff he’d experienced in his years leading those amazing organizations and how he landed in Roseburg, Oregon where I live.
ME: “Oh, haha, I’ve got some good stories that I’d love to dive into on what I do and what brought me here.. but first… you’ve gotta tell me… how was it being able to help lead all of those amazing companies you were a part of? That had to be an absolute hoot… I’m sure you learned a lot”.
Bam… the conversation started and I spent most of the lunch really just listening to his story and asking questions. It was fascinating and I had a lot of fun. But you could tell he really enjoyed it… so much so that without knowing hardly anything about me he reached out to me by email a month later and said he wanted to connect again because he wanted to learn more about what I do.
If I would have blabbed on about myself in that first meeting, he may not have felt that same connection. I genuinely cared and listened.
4. Money can be like a boomerang if you let it be.
Selflessly guide money to others who you want to build a relationship with and it’ll come roaring back to you.
You know that moment when you see that opportunity to finally make that quick buck or cash in?
Yep, we all do.
Our gut reaction is to take the cash.
It could be keeping that commission on a sale when you could pass it on to someone else in the deal that you want to build a tighter relationship with.
It could be paying your key employees better than they could get paid elsewhere at the expense of your own paycheck.
In 2008 I decided to give up about $15,000 (it was a lot of money for me then) in commissions and pass it over to an amazing entrepreneur I wanted to get to know better.
At the time he ran a company that did around $10mm/yr… and the email I got from him after I voluntarily passed that $15k commission to him was flat out awesome.
Within hours he emailed back and said (I’m paraphrasing),
“Trevor, I wanted to reach out because I’ve never seen anyone do anything like that before. It shows a lot of character and I respect and admire that. You’re the type of person I want to get to know better. Let’s hop on the phone this week. What’s your cell?”.
And we hopped on the phone and had an amazing conversation and I met him several times in person after that. Now, that guy’s company is doing over $100mm/yr and I’ve got this great connection with him all because I looked past my pocketbook in the short-term and invested in standing out to this guy in a way he’d never seen by selflessly helping money flow to him.
And you bet your butt I follow up from time to time with postcards with that CEO, and to this day he replies back and thanks me almost every time.
5. Consistently mail out “doses of gratitude”.
One thing I learned from a mentor of mine is that as soon as you cross from the digital world to the physical world and deliver your appreciation and gratitude to people through the mail… the impact is lasting and huge.
So about 5 or 6 years back I started buying 10 postcards everywhere I traveled. Then I’d put those postcards from all around the world in a pile on my desk and every Thursday I’d write out a “dose of gratitude” on a postcard to whoever popped up in my mind.
I’d usually write 3-5 a week and then mail them out to those people.
I’d never ask for anything. It was usually really simple… just letting them know I was thinking about them and then I’d congratulate them for a big “win” they’d recently had that I heard about or just thank them for being awesome.
Over the years I’ve sent out hundreds and hundreds of them.
Amazing things started to happen and you’d be floored at the doors that opened up over the years, relationships tightened, and what it did for me personally expressing that gratitude to people every week in a very personal way.
Go ahead. Do it.
Send out 10 postcards this week to anyone who pops up in your mind. See what happens. You can thank me later :-)
6. Surround yourself with people who inspire you every day.
I got bit by the “work from home” solo-entrepreneur storyline early on. Hook, line, and sinker.
Somehow we think that working from home is a great thing. In 2010 after we had our first daughter, I decided that it wasn’t for me.
No matter how many digital “friends” you have it doesn’t compare to surrounding yourself with awesome people who inspire you every day.
I couldn’t find a good entrepreneur co-workspace in town… so in 2010 I found an 8,000 sq.ft. building downtown and created an amazing space for entrepreneurs to work myself called the Loft.
Now, theLoft is full (with a waiting list in an area that struggles to rent office space all around our building) and I get to work around people doing really awesome things who inspire me every day. That inspiration and those connections open up doors you never predicted would open up. And a cool byproduct is many of us have done business together and added multiple six figures to my bottom line.
(By the way, I don’t make a profit by running the loft. I set rents to a spot just so I could attract the exact people I wanted in there. Nothing more. For me, it’s about the long-term. And it’s paid off in spades. Refer back to #4)
7. Don’t put your idols on a pedestal.
You know those people you look up to?
Those people who feel untouchable and like superhuman?
Well, they’re not.
They’re just regular people like you and me.
When you get a chance to meet your idols or people in “high” positions talk to them like you would a good friend. The second you put your idols on a pedestal is the same second you demote yourself to a 2nd class person. People in powerful positions respect when people can just be REAL and candid with them.
I remember back in 2012 I got an email out of the blue from big-time author Robert G. Allen.
He’s written tons of books and you may have read some of them. Anyhow, a client of his was a member of an industry association I created (see #7) and told Robert he needed to connect with me to get in the group. I charged $299 a year and Robert emailed to see if he could get added to the group.
Because of his status, I got the feeling he was assuming he’d get a free pass into the group. I could have read it wrong, but that was the feeling I got.
Most people probably would have given it to him just to have someone of his status in their group. But I stuck to my guns and treated him like I would anyone else. And part of the process to get into that association was to pay the $299 and get on a phone call with me.
You never know where a phone call and that initial connection can lead…
… so I make it a point to hop on the phone with anyone who I feel is a mover and a shaker at least that first time.
He respected that move so much that he invited me to his mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, CA to brainstorm marketing. A month later I was in his home office in a 3-hour one-on-one brainstorming session. It was pretty damn cool. That never would have happened if I treated him special and put him on a pedestal.
8. Be a constant connector.
My last 3 business partners, some of my best entrepreneur friends, and 90% of any financial successes I’ve had are because of connections I’ve made with people… not necessarily because I’m smarter than the average.
Carrot’s CTO, Chris, was an introduction from a guy I’d met a year before.
I can’t imagine where we’d be without that connection alone. (Thanks Chris!)
One thing I’m always looking for the opportunity to do is to help connect people with others who can help them. In return, people introduce me to amazing people all of the time.
In 2008 I saw an opportunity to better connect the industry for real estate educators and did it by creating an industry association. Now it’s the largest and most active online mastermind for real estate educators with over 400 industry experts and CEO’s and hundreds using the service daily.
In 2010 I saw the opportunity to better connect our local entrepreneur community here in Roseburg and started the Loft and the Young Entrepreneur Society. Also, I just wanted to surround myself with great people that inspired me.
Both of those situations created huge value for those groups of people, helped them connect with people who could help them in their businesses and lives, and in return, I’ve become the “connector”. When you’re the connector people go out of their way to introduce you to other amazing people they know.
Heck, my younger brother (and former Carrot team member) Kyle took that strategy and created a sports marketing networking group in L.A., then he moved to Phoenix… and along the way, he met Olympians, professional athletes, hall of famers, executives at professional sports teams, and other amazing people. Being the connector led to him starting Athletes Brand, a clothing company, that now works with professional athletes… much of who he can trace back to relationships he made by connecting with others.
Be the connector for others and others will seek out great connections for you. You never know where those connections will go.
9. Always have a big vision, and share it.
People are inspired by and love to follow people with a big vision.
Especially other big thinkers.
When I was 23 and fresh out of college, I had a big vision.
I had no darn clue how or when I would make it happen… but I had a huge vision. People much wiser and more successful than me caught onto that and put time, energy, and trust into me at an age that looking back… most people would have dismissed me as too young.
But my positivity and vision sucked them in and made them realize that I was for real.
Don’t hide your big vision from others. Share it loud and proud so everyone you come across hears it. It’ll attract amazing people and amazing opportunities that can change your life.
As a real-world example, Adrian on our team has been an entrepreneur working for himself for the last 7+ years and at one time said “I’ll never work for anyone ever again”.
But now he focuses almost full-time on Carrot because he saw the vision I have for this company and felt that he needed to be a part of it.
Create a vision for the future that hits you in your core. Believe it. Then share it every chance you get. You never know who it’ll hook who can help you fulfill that vision.
10. Stop sending generic mail-order wine baskets and stuff.
Sending people things over the mail is amazing. But in my book, not all things are created equal as far as the power to truly build bonds that can be life-changing.
So if you want to truly wow that partner, or client, or friend… stop sending out generic mail-order gifts.
Wine baskets with random wine and cheese that you have no connection with.
Boxes of chocolates from those big mass candy producers.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE getting those kinds of gifts and I appreciate it a ton.
But the impact and emotional connection are nowhere near as strong as a more personalized gift from the heart.
As an example…
… I bought 100 quote books called the “Little Book of Big Quotes“.
They’re cheap as far as cost… but then what I’ll do is send them a bottle of local wine and locally made chocolate with a book of quotes and I’ll highlight and note a quote that reminds me of that person.
Sometimes it’s just a quote book and a personal note.
Those $1.50 quote books and a genuine note and taking the time to circle a few quotes that you feel will resonate with that person has made a massive impact on those I’ve given them to.
In the past, I’ve also sent out…
- Customized Christmas ornaments when someone had a baby (with the baby’s picture on it that I swiped from Facebook). I borrowed this idea from a friend, Danny… because he sent me one. To this day that ornament still gets hung on our tree and is always a reminder of Danny and his awesomeness.
- “baby Carrot’ orange onesie to some of our amazing Carrot clients who recently had babies.
- Remote control military helicopter to a business colleague and friend who was taking helicopter lessons and who was a Green Beret.
- A giant box of Cheeze-It’s (like really big) to a business CEO and friend as an inside joke for Christmas.
- Local wine from the Umpqua Valley (amazing wine region by the way) so it connects them to my own story
A really cool and meaningful gift I received from a business partner and friend was this amazing original painting by one of my favorite artists.
A little thought goes a long way.
Get creative with your gifts and ditch the generic “easy and quick mail order gifts”.
11. Remember that money has no loyalty. But the right relationships do.
Money will pick up and leave you at a moment’s notice and not give a crap that it did.
So don’t put your loyalty to money. I can guarantee you that when we’re on our deathbed the last thing we’ll be thinking about is “Man I wish I made more money”.
It’s the relationships, the connections, the love, the experiences, the contributions we’ve made in life that matter.
And the cool thing is, the better you get at those things… the more easily money flows to you.
It’s Not Impossible To Make Your First (or next) Million By Yourself…
… but it’s a whole lot faster and more fulfilling to make it part of your everyday living to connect with others and help them achieve their goals. In turn, your network will grow like crazy and your goals will be in your hands a heck of a lot sooner than you think.
Most of these aren’t “tips” or “networking hacks”… but a flat-out different way of thinking about life and connections.
Shift from “what can I get?” and “what fancy words should I say to this person?” to “I really wanna learn about you, what makes you tick?” and “If there’s anything I can help you with any time please don’t hesitate to reach out”.
Once you make that shift, doors will open for you and people will almost magically appear in your life that you never expected.