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21 Days to Success Through Networking
The Life and Times of Gnik Rowten
By Ron Sukenick, Ken Williams
Information Today, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Ron Sukenick and Ken Williams
All rights reserved.
The Gift Is In the Giving
Gnik woke up after a restful night of sleep. He had arrived at his new apartment late in the afternoon the day before. He had unpacked his few belongings, making his tiny place seem more like home. He posted a quick status update to Facebook to let his friends know he had made it to his new home without incident. First day in the city. I feel like a blank slate. Bring it on!
Living away from home and friends for the first time, Gnik stopped at the first coffee shop he saw as his new venture dawned. He smiled to himself. He knew no one there, so he decided to make the best of the situation. A woman, probably a few years older than Gnik, was poring over charts on her iPad; conveniently, a couple of empty chairs surrounded the table where she sat. The black plastic chair directly across from her was lighter than it looked, and when Gnik pulled it back, it almost fell over.
"Excuse me," he began. "Do you mind if I sit here?" The woman nodded without looking up. "Hi. My name is Gnik with a G."
"I'm sorry?" She looked up.
Gnik smiled. "Gnik with a G. What's your name?"
The young woman seemed confused but not irritated at the interruption. "I'm Pam. Pam with a P." She smiled at her joke and took Gnik's outstretched hand, shaking it firmly. Pam noticed the notebooks and the laptop he was carrying. "Nice to meet you, Gnik with a G. And I have to ask about your name. Gnik with a G? Tell me about that."
Gnik prefaced the explanation by noting his father's tendency to "enhance" the facts of his stories. Frankly, Gnik wasn't sure he knew the hard, cold facts.
"Before my parents married, they were quite the socialites. In fact, they first met at a chamber meeting and have continued to be actively involved in various causes and networks. They found that meeting and connecting with people was a lot of fun, and they met some wonderful people as a result."
"So, where did 'Gnik' come from? Did they lose a bet?"
"Apparently, Mom and Dad went to a charity benefit after a particularly stressful week. My father indulged in the sweets — tortes, cakes, truffles, and other treats. He was standing behind the banner over the desserts table, when he looked up and laughed, because the banner read 'Stressed.'
"So, there he was. Stressed and eating desserts, when he realized that 'stressed' spelled backward is 'desserts.' My mom saw him laughing, and after that they started spelling lots of things backward to see what they got.
"At a church event, they were taught to beware of keeping their 'reward' in a 'drawer.' That got them thinking about our last name, Rowten. And then they realized if they called me 'Gnik' my name would be 'networking' spelled backwards. So, the name stuck. I'm not sure how much I believe it, but that's the story I've been told. The thing is, it's been a great way for me to break the ice when I meet people." He winked. "It worked, didn't it?"
Pam chuckled. "Yeah, I have to admit that it's a great way to start a conversation. It snapped me right out of my zombie zone. So, Gnik with a G, what do you do?"
Gnik swallowed hard. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do, but I don't do anything yet. That's why I've moved here — to get a new start. How can I answer that question without sounding like a loser?
Gnik decided to just dive in, be honest about his situation, and see where it led. He explained to Pam that he'd moved here to make a new start, and, while he hadn't completely ruled anything out, he was thinking about starting a marketing firm. "I've been a marketing support associate for the past year and a half, and I have a pretty good feel for the industry. For a while, now, I've been gathering information to set out on my own." As he shared what he'd done before the move and how it had turned out to be a dead end, he realized the conversation was becoming very one-sided and stopped talking abruptly.
"Gnik," Pam started, smiling knowingly. She reached across the table and touched one of Gnik's notepads. "I understand how you're feeling. Can I give you some feedback?"
Gnik felt an uncomfortable knot forming in his stomach but nodded for Pam to continue.
"The only person who knows what you want is you. The only person who knows who you really are is you. You're just like me and everyone else in this city. We all want to be someone. We all want to have something. But guess what's different between you and them?"
Gnik sat back and closed his eyes, pensively. He didn't understand Pam's riddle.
Pam continued, "If you look for it, you'll see a lot of people who are clawing their way to the top. Lots of people will step on your or my or anyone else's toes to get to where they think they should be. But not you. No, you're different."
A smile crept across Gnik's face. "I am? Yeah. I am. But ... how am I different?"
"Let me ask you a question," Pam said. "I snuck a look as you ordered your coffee, and I noticed what you dropped into the barista's tip jar. Most people I watch will drop their change into the jar — if they give anything. But not you. You reached into your pocket for a bill. Why?"
Gnik's face began to flush, and his cheeks grew warm. "I don't know. I guess I wanted to show a little appreciation to a guy who seems to be working hard for a living."
"And," Pam said, slowly, "think about how you felt after dropping the tip into the jar. Remember, I saw the whole thing."
"What do you mean?"
"You did something unexpected and very nice for someone you didn't know. Think. How did you feel?"
Gnik grew more embarrassed. He mumbled, "It felt good."
Gnik shifted in his seat while Pam began to gather her belongings. As he looked into her eyes, Gnik felt more confident. "Good. It felt good."
Pam stood up and apologized. "I'm sorry — I just realized I'm running late for a meeting. But think about that. Think about what you got out of giving the barista a generous tip. I hope we can continue this conversation soon. I'm here almost every morning." To reinforce her desire to reconnect, Pam dropped her business card on the table.
Gnik politely stood as Pam left. He pondered Pam's parting words. What did I get out of that? Was I truly selfless by giving that tip? Or did I expect something more? He felt like he was on the brink of something significant, but it seemed so simple. I gave because it felt good to give.CHAPTER 2
What Goes Around Comes Around
Friends and family:
A quick blog post, as promised. I've been here a couple of days, and things are going well. I got settled in my apartment, and anyone who decides to visit, I'm happy to show you around. I'm right in the middle of downtown, and the view from my kitchen window is absolutely fabulous! I love just sitting and looking out over the bustling activity of the city below — especially at night, when the streets are lit up. I can see the silhouetted skyline against the black sky. In an odd way, it calms me.
I met an interesting person yesterday. I went to grab a cup of coffee, and I saw someone in the shop who I was drawn to. I can't really explain it. She was busy, but before I could talk myself out of it, I just went up and sat down at the same table. We had a great conversation. She pointed out a few things that really got me thinking. I've had some time to think about what she said, and I'll give you a quick rundown. Basically, she pointed out that when I do something nice for someone else, the good feeling I get is my payoff. It made me remember buying donuts for my high school biology teacher, hoping to bribe her to postpone a quiz. I felt a bit frustrated when it didn't work. But what Pam, the woman I met yesterday, said really makes sense. If I enjoy the moment, giving to give, sharing to share, without expecting anything in return, I end up feeling — no, I end up being blessed. I plan to run into Pam again. I have to thank her for her insight. Maybe, somehow, I can return the favor.
Gnik pressed the Publish button, smiling as he replayed yesterday's conversation with Pam in his head. He gathered his laptop and a notepad, stuffing them into his backpack, and stepped into the narrow hallway. He wasn't exactly sure where the library was, but the flyer he had seen in the coffee shop earlier had an address that seemed to be fairly close by. There was a forum for local businesses scheduled for the afternoon, and the presentation Gnik was most interested in was called "What No One Ever Told You About Marketing." He thought it sounded relevant to the small business he was contemplating, and he wanted to learn what other small business owners needed in their own marketing.
Gnik began walking in the general direction of the library, confident that if he couldn't find it on his own he'd run into someone who could direct him. Suddenly, across the street, he saw a young man, probably a few years older than himself, scratching his head and looking confused. Gnik waited for traffic to pass, then navigated his way across the intersection to see if he could somehow help. As he drew closer, Gnik realized the man was looking at a flat tire with a puzzled expression on his face.
Confidently, Gnik asked, "Need a hand?"
"I've never changed a tire before, but I should be able to manage," the man said, clearly embarrassed. "Thanks anyway."
"I'll be happy to help."
Gnik was still charged from yesterday's conversation with Pam. He was excited about the prospect of giving himself the gift of giving. He examined the available tools and asked, "Do you have a jack?"
"I have no idea what I have." The man averted his eyes and busied himself looking through the trunk of the car.
Gnik slipped beside the man and offered, "Let me take a look."
As he pulled the flimsy cardboard cover off the spare tire well in the trunk, Gnik spotted a jack wrapped around the bolt that held the spare tire down. "Here it is. Let me show you."
Gnik showed the man how the jack worked and the position it needed to be in to safely lift the car. Together, they removed the lug nuts and the flat, then placed the spare on the bare hub. They replaced and tightened the lugs, lowered the car, and stowed the jack and flat tire in the trunk.
The man reached out to shake Gnik's hand. "Thanks so much for your time," he said and reached for his wallet. "Please, how much do I owe you for your help?"
Surprised at the offer, Gnik smiled and waved his hand. "No, it was my pleasure. Really. You don't owe me anything. But if you can tell me where the library is, that would be great."
The man offered Gnik a ride, dropping him off at the library a few minutes before the session was to begin. Gnik thanked the man for the ride, and the two shook hands. On a whim, Gnik asked his new friend if he had a business card. "I just moved here, and I haven't met many people. If you don't mind, I'd like to stay connected."
The man rifled through his wallet and handed Gnik a card. He extended his hand again. "Steve. Steve Lawrence. Thanks again for helping me with my tire." Gnik apologized for not having a card to give in return. Making a mental note to get business cards, Gnik thanked Steve again for the ride to the library and promised to be in touch.
Later that evening when Gnik arrived home, he flipped on the television to have some background noise in the empty apartment. He turned on the computer and looked for comments on his morning blog post. He expected a reply from one of The Crew and was interested in their thoughts. The first comment popped up:
Glad things are coming together, and I'm so glad you're finding joy in giving. I have found the same to be true. In fact, when I have some expectation of gaining something in return when I give, I end up being disappointed.
Gnik reflected on the observation from one of The Crew. He smiled, pleased that his friends were following his activities. He noticed that the second comment was from his dad. He eagerly read:
There's something deeper in this lesson that you'll probably figure out soon, if you haven't already. It involves something you said about wanting to return the favor to Pam. Yes, you should give without any expectation of gaining anything in return. But, notice how you felt when Pam gave you her insight. You wanted to do something for her.
When you give to others, it becomes easier for them to give to you.
Give without expectation, and when the opportunity presents itself, receive with joy.
Glad to know all's well with you.
Gnik's thoughts immediately turned to Steve and his flat tire. It truly was a joy for him to help Steve change the tire, but he hadn't realized at the time that Steve desired — and was almost compelled — to help him in return. He seemed very pleased when Gnik accepted his offer of a lift to the library.
Gnik made a commitment to himself that he would continue to help others without expecting anything in return. He realized that when we help each other, we all do better as a result.CHAPTER 3
The Power of Perspective
Gnik rolled over and pulled the covers over his head, but not before he caught a glimpse of the gray sky outside. The curtains in his apartment moved slightly as the ceiling fan circulated the air. The sky was unusually dark, and his mood matched the weather.
Gnik finally pulled himself out of bed and took a long shower. As the warm water rained over his face, he deliberated about how to use the day. I really should get out and meet some people. Make some contacts and see how I can help others.
Ordinarily, he wouldn't need to convince himself to do something productive, but, today, he was feeling a bit out of sorts.
On the other hand, I have some things that I really should take care of here at home. I have some organizing to do, and I'm just not feeling it today. I'll get my stuff together, and I'll be able to rock it tomorrow.
Gnik wasn't comfortable detailing his "off" day on his public blog, so he took his funk to his Facebook wall, where only his close friends would see. Still, he decided to be subtle in his status update:
Today's a good day to sing the blues. :-/
While he felt justified in blowing the day off, he still felt conflicted. He knew he'd have days like this, but he hadn't expected one to show up so soon.
Hoping to clear his head, Gnik hastily threw on some warm-up pants and a T-shirt and finished getting ready to leave the house. He grabbed a banana and an apple, downed a glass of orange juice, and headed out toward the park. He loved people watching, and the nearby park seemed like a great place for it. Wrapped up in a dark cloud, Gnik slowly walked to a park bench near a footpath. He sat down, leaned back, stretched his legs out, and put his chin on his chest.
Gnik smiled faintly at the memory that had popped into his head when he entered the park. "I was strolling through the park one night, and oh, I felt so blue ..."
Gnik's parents used to sing these same words every time they took him to the park while he was growing up. The next line to the song "Little Space Girl" struck Gnik by how much it fit today. "When I heard a little voice say, 'I'm so lonely, too.'"
Gnik wondered to himself whether he might be lonely, when his thoughts were interrupted by someone saying his name. "Gnik? Gnik with a G?"
Gnik looked up, surprised that someone would recognize him after having been in town only a couple of days. "Hey, Gnik. Remember me? Pam. With a P."
Gnik stood up and took Pam's extended hand, shaking it weakly. "Hey, Pam. How's it going?"
"What was that, Gnik? That was one of the most pathetic handshakes ever!" Pam winked, but Gnik wasn't sure she was joking. He reached out and shook her hand again — a bit too vigorously this time.
"Sorry, Pam," he offered. "I'm having a rough day, so I came to the park to clear my head. Good to see you again, though. I have to thank you for your insight the other day — I really appreciate your helping me see that the gift is in the giving. I know it doesn't look like it, but that conversation stuck with me, and it's already made a difference."
Excerpted from 21 Days to Success Through Networking by Ron Sukenick, Ken Williams. Copyright © 2013 Ron Sukenick and Ken Williams. Excerpted by permission of Information Today, Inc..
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