This morning I posted this as my Facebook status:

If we change the definition of wealth to the number of great conversations we’ve had, then my annual income is well above average.

In the last week alone, I have corresponded with interesting people in the Philippines, Turkey, western USA, Sweden, Vancouver Island, and many places in between. Almost every day, I have a heart-opening Skype call or two with people in different time zones from me. I am indeed a rich woman.

This morning I was looking through my past writing, and I came across this piece that I wrote last year as a guest post for my friend Sherri Garrity. It reminded me once again of the importance of connecting with our “joy people”. (As a side note, Sherri is one of my joy people, and we’re cooking up something interesting together that may or may not include mandalas and horses.)

Networking, or Connecting with your Joy People?

“I hate networking. It gives me hives.”

That’s what I would have told you at the beginning of this self-employment journey. It was one of the things I dreaded most about self-employment. I got so stressed out about it that it almost kept me from making the leap from my job into my business.

My friend Desiree laughed. “What do you mean you hate networking? You met me on Twitter, didn’t you? What do you think you were doing when you started chatting with me?”

“But that’s different,” I said. “That was just about making friends with someone I felt drawn to. That didn’t have any of the ickiness of networking because I wasn’t trying to get you to hire me or buy something from me.”

“It’s time for a little re-framing,” she said. (Desiree’s a straight-shooter – it’s what I like about her.) “Change your definition of networking. Instead of thinking about networking, start thinking about how you can attract your joy people.”

Joy people? I was skeptical. How would attracting joy people help me build my business? It sounded like a nice way to make friends (seeking out people who add to the joy in my life), but what did that have to do with business?

Setting Desiree’s advice aside, I went to a few of those business club meet-and-greets, where your primary goal is to get your business card into the hands of as many people as possible. They weren’t horrible (a lot of people are genuinely nice, quite frankly), but I walked away wondering what was the point of handing my business card to a bunch of plumbers, construction contractors, printers, and mortgage brokers. I was trying to build a business as a writer, retreat facilitator, and communicator – none of the people around the table were looking for the kind of services I was offering.

I kept going though, because I thought that’s the way you’re “supposed” to network when you’re starting a business.

And then one day, at one of those luncheons, when people were going around the table handing out business cards and stroking each other’s backs for bringing them business, I thought “these are not my joy people.” It’s not that they weren’t good people (and probably someone else’s joy people), they just weren’t MY joy people.

It took me awhile, but I finally took Desiree’s advice. No, let me rephrase that… I finally realized that the stuff I was doing all along, making friends with people online and in person who felt like MY people, with similar interests and passions as me, wasn’t just a sideline to building my business it WAS building my business.

It all started with an e-book. I had this bright idea that I would gather wisdom from a bunch of people I admired (my joy people) and I would compile it into an e-book. This wasn’t a money-making venture, but rather it was a way to attract people to my blog and get them to sign up for my newsletter. In the end, 21 wise and wonderful people  contributed to the e-book, and the thing I hadn’t fully anticipated was that these people would all take pride in the book themselves, and they’d tell all of THEIR joy people and suddenly the word would spread much further than I could spread it myself.

In less than two weeks, more than 500 people had signed up for my newsletter and downloaded the e-book. I suddenly had 500 people on an email list that hadn’t even existed before. That was 500 people who were interested in what I was putting out into the world – a whole lot more than I’d ever meet at business club meet and greets.

Then I had another bright idea. I’d attended ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action) the year before (when I was employed and someone else was fitting the bill) and it was the kind of place that attracted a whole lot of my joy people. These are big-thinking, world-changing people who believe in social justice, beauty, art, music, dance, community, creativity, and leadership – all things I’m passionate about. I dreamed of going again this year, but knew I couldn’t afford it, what with giving up a steady salary and training budget and building a new business.

I put on my best creative, entrepreneurial thinking cap and came up with an idea. I emailed the executive director and suggested a trade – I would offer them my communications and social media expertise to help promote ALIA if they would cover the cost of my registration.

Not only did they like my idea, but they came up with something even better than I could have imagined. They wanted me to interview faculty members about their ideas for ALIA’s theme, “Change for Good”. In other words, I got to speak with some of the most creative thinkers in the world (these are top notch people, most of whom have several published books and have consulted all over the world) in advance of the conference!

Talk about attracting my joy people! These were the kind of joy people I’d only DREAMED of connecting with when I’d started imagining this new business. These were the kind of people who made any attempts at networking at a local business club seem pointless and a waste of my energy.

Suddenly “joy people” was starting to make sense. I was building my business and my contacts in a way that brought me great joy and connected me with people who were part of that joy.

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