These past couple of weeks I was able to enjoy a nice family vacation. It is vital, I believe, to anyone's success that they have some time to step away and refresh the batteries. However, today I don't want to write about the importance of taking time off, but ask the question of when did this world become so self-centered?
Why do I ask this question when starting this post about vacation? Let me share a story with you that has nothing to do with networking, yet at the same time has everything to do with networking.
This story is a true story, and unfortunately one I lived just the other day.
This story is about our travel home. We were flying back from Florida, it was my wife, my 20 month old daughter, my mother –in-law and myself. We purchased a seat for my daughter even though we didn't have to, to insure comfort for all of us. We even made sure to get online and check in as early as possible as we were flying Southwest and wanted to be able to get on early so we could all sit next to one another. Unfortunately, to no one's fault but our own, we got to the gate late and ended up being the last people on the plane.
Again, this was our fault and we knew there was no chance that the four of us could sit together. However, we did hope that there would be an opening of two seats so that my daughter could sit with her mother. Now I realize that there are comfort advantages to sitting by the window, or in the aisle seat of a plane. This is why people check in early so that they can get these seats. However, there is also a level of courtesy and chivalry if you will to helping out others in a time of need. This is where my story turned ugly.
As we boarded the plane it was quite obvious no one likes the middle seat.
I mean god forbid if we sit next to someone we don't know and actually say "Hi". As we walk by each row with just a middle seat I notice two things: 1. that people are doing everything they can to avoid eye contact with us as if they are sitting next to an open middle seat, and 2. there is two seats open next to one another in the last row! I was so excited to see that second part as it meant that my wife and daughter could be next to one another. I knew I couldn't be near them but at least they would be together. Unfortunately that wasn't the case (for that row anyways).
You see the lady walking on in front of us, who saw we had a baby also went to the last row. Now the two last rows had 3 empty seats. Two seats (window and aisle) in one and the aisle seat in the other. Those three would have been perfect for a family of three with a 20 month old, but no she heads right for them. Fine I am thinking she will take the aisle and I will find a middle seat somewhere. As she goes down to the back she stops to put her bag up (which she couldn't do without my help) and she is approached by the Flight Attendant who can clearly see our issue. He asks the lady if she is going to sit in the aisle seat so that my wife and child could take the other two. Immediately she gets whinny and states she was really hoping for a window. The Flight Attendant being polite (much more than I would have been) explains that she is free to sit where she wants but that we (the family of three RIGHT BEHIND HER) needed two seats together. She looks us dead in the eye and says "well I really want a window so I am taking that one."
But wait this gets better!
OK so this witch is so self-centered she could care less about separating a BABY from her mother so she can look out a window occasionally. Fine.
So we find another gentleman sitting in an aisle seat, who after having to be bribed with a free drink agrees to move to the open aisle seat in the back opening up two seats. Great it is going to work out. WRONG!
In the time we get him to agree the gentleman in the last row who WAS sitting in a middle seat, and has witnessed this whole thing happening decides he wants to the aisle seat now and leaves the middle open! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Well this doesn't sit well with Mr. Free Drink so he sits back in his seat. We finally get one gentleman to take a middle seat, (among others he knew!!!) and open two seats for my wife and daughter while I get to sit next to the lady who needed the window seat (the other openings filled in with other stragglers showing up after us). I am not even going to go into the rest of the story of how my daughter got motion sickness on the plane and we left covered in vomit.
The entire flight I was thinking about how amazing it was that no one was willing to help out an obvious family in need because of the little advantage in comfort of an aisle seat compared to a middle seat on a plane. I couldn't understand how no one was willing to make such a HUGE sacrifice of sitting next to a stranger for a 2.5 hour flight so that a baby could be with her mother. It was only after bribery and pleading that someone finally moved. Where did the day go when others would see someone in need and help? When did this world become so self-centered that we can't imagine putting someone's need before our luxury? It wasn't like someone was sacrificing their ticket, they just had to sacrifice the slightest bit of comfort for someone, but no they would blatantly look them in the eye and basically say no my need for this seat is more important than your need to be next to you baby.
So what does this all have to do with networking? Why post this story besides to get out some level of frustration?
Because you see a similar mentality with many professionals when they are networking. Too many people are focused on solely what's in it for them. What do you have for me? What can I get from this meeting, this group, this person? Far too few ever ask what can I do FOR this person? How can I help them? What can I give them in referrals?
When we network with a self-centered attitude and don't focus on how we can provide for others NO ONE wins. If we all network with the only purpose of taking, and no one is giving, then no one gets anything. We need to make sure we start looking out for others, and then others will look out for us. My passion is teaching business owners and professionals how to network more effectively because I believe with all my heart that if we can get out of the "Me against the world" mentality and focus on how to collaborate with others we can all reach the levels of success we desire.
Have you been networking with a "what's in it for me" attitude? Have you started a conversation lately at a networking meeting with "how can I help you?" Have you made it a goal to pass a referral to someone before you expected one from them?
Would you have given up your seat?