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Category: Beth Bridges

BETH BRIDGES is the author of “Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful and Profitable Business Network.” She attended over 2,500 networking events in 10 years, secured a new job in 18 hours with one email, and launched a marketing consulting business through networking. She speaks at chambers of commerce, associations, and conferences across North America. Beth, 2018 Western Regional 400m and 800m W45 Champion, is training to compete in the World Masters Athletics Championships in 2020. Learn more at The Networking Motivator.

Accepting the Gifts Put Before You; An essay by Beth Bridges

Right now, someone is trying to give you a gift.

Do you see it?

No?

Maybe you’re looking for the wrong kind of gift.

I’ve been receiving a lot of good stuff for a long time but I’m just now realizing they are gifts.

Nearly a year after his sudden, shocking death, my husband JD continues to leave me gifts. The greatest of those was this understanding and ability to see, recognize and accept nearly everything –  pleasant and unpleasant – as a gift.

The first gift I recognized was a big bag of frozen chicken breasts.

You can laugh, but it’s so typical of him. You were thinking he paid a year in advance for floral deliveries or left me millions from a secret bank account.

Nope. Prepared and practical daily living was JD’s thing. If I broke something – a piece of jewelry or my favorite sunglasses – I only had to show it to him and the next morning, it was fixed.

One day, he brought home a padded toilet seat after I complained about how cold and hard the old seat was. He didn’t say a word, just brought it home and installed it.

That was his love language – practical gifts that made things easier and more comfortable.

When he was in the hospital I ate only because my friends and family put food in front of me, but I wasn’t so out of it that I couldn’t feed his dogs. And there was no way I was going to have him come home and tell him that I fed them dog food instead of the hand-crafted gourmet breakfast of home-cooked chicken, sweet potato and vegetables that he made them.

But then three days later he died. And the container of chicken in the refrigerator was empty.

I couldn’t even think of how to start the BBQ much less go to the store, buy a bunch of chicken and grill it. So I opened the freezer – maybe they liked TV dinners – and there was a dozens of frozen, individually packaged bags of chicken breasts.

Just thaw, cut them up and go.

What a gift.

Weeks later I still wasn’t ready to spend Saturday afternoons cooking dog food, so I tried canned chicken (too expensive), the WalMart roasted chicken (too much sodium) and “frying” chicken (too messy).

I was learning the gift of home-cooking ingenuity with all these options.

Then I found the InstantPot I had given JD but that he had never used. Cooked chicken in 10 minutes?

What a gift.

Once I started looking for the gifts he had left me, I saw them everywhere.

It helped ease my grief and yet the greatest gift he gave me was directly tied to that grief.

As The Networking Motivator, I had been a very public networker for years. I went to events all the time and even if I hardly knew anyone, I was always relaxed.

And confident. In command. Comfortable.

Then – after two months of wandering around my house in a fog, leaving only to go to my Mom and Dad’s or to run with my running buddies – a business friend invited me to be his guest at an award luncheon.

A big luncheon. Full of people I probably wouldn’t know. Or worse, who would know me and would know what happened.

I think he suspected I might back out, so he offered to pick me up and graciously insisted that he needed me, his networking coach, to make sure he took full advantage of it.

I was terrified.

What if people asked me how I was and I froze up? Said the wrong thing? Forgot someone’s name? Or worse, started crying in the middle of the event? (I did, but very quietly, during the keynote speaker’s presentation.)

Me and good-guy Ted at the BBB Awards luncheon. I did my best to smile for the picture.

I was incredibly uncomfortable and unhappy while I was there and completely exhausted when I got home.

I didn’t realize for months what an incredible gift that feeling of discomfort was.

I have attended over 3,000 networking events in the last 15 years. It had been a very very long time since I had felt those distinct, unpleasant feelings.

It was a shock to be sitting there thinking:

“What am I doing here?”

“What am I going to say to these people?”

“Did I just make an ass of myself?”

And “How soon can I leave?”

So many of the people who read my book and hire me as a keynote speaker and trainer are looking to me to help them solve and resolve those feelings in themselves and for their members and audiences.

I always sympathized with them and that’s one of the reasons I do what I do… but I couldn’t completely empathize.

Oh, do I get it now.

I went to my first party later that summer and I’ll admit, I drank too much and I clung all night to the arm of a friend who had escorted (and driven!) me there.

And just in case I didn’t get the picture yet, I repeated the experience of extreme discomfort at a friend’s Christmas party.

I was fine until I got there. Then the first person I talked to asked if I had just come from running practice (his girlfriend smacked him) because apparently I was dressed inappropriately casual.

Ugh.

Once again, I felt awkward, out of place and dreading the effort of trying to make conversation when all I wanted to do was leave.

I ended up huddled in the kitchen with an old friend who was willing to do most of the talking.

I fled right before the toast …

It wasn’t until was invited by a friend to go with him to a conference that I wouldn’t otherwise have gone to. Add that “I don’t belong here!” feeling on top of the continuing social networking anxiety and it was a perfect storm.

Until suddenly, standing in the middle of this event full of truly lovely people, I realized that that feeling of discomfort was a GIFT!

And that’s when I began to embrace it. I soaked it in and relaxed into that feeling.

What a deep, useful insight into the feelings that so many people have about networking.

It caused a shift in the direction of my networking teaching, both in my trainings and in my keynote speech. I’ll be able to show people that I acknowledge and can relate to those feelings and I will be giving them mental tools and specific networking strategies to specifically address their perspective.

JD’s gift wasn’t just for me. It was for YOU too. I hope you’ll see it.

And you’ll see that right now, someone in your life is trying to share a gift with you.

Maybe they’ve got some wisdom to share.

Or they’ve had a similar experience and they can empathize with you.

Maybe they’re setting a good example.

Or serving as a horrible warning.

Everyone has a gift to share and they are freely offering it up to you.

Open your eyes and open yourself up to accepting that gift.


BETH BRIDGES is the author of “Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful and Profitable Business Network.” She attended over 2,500 networking events in 10 years, secured a new job in 18 hours with one email, and launched a marketing consulting business through networking. She speaks at chambers of commerce, associations, and conferences across North America. Beth, 2018 Western Regional 400m and 800m W45 Champion, is training to compete in the World Masters Athletics Championships in 2020. Learn more at The Networking Motivator.

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How High Achievers Can Overcome The Post Goal Achievement Letdown Syndrome; An essay by Beth Bridges


How High Achievers Can Overcome The PGALS After a Big Win

Yes! You did it!

You completed a marathon. Published a book. Got the big promotion. Took that vacation of a lifetime. Married the love of your life.

You should be feeling great. On top of the world. The joy of this moment should last forever.

Instead, two days later you feel disappointed.

Uh oh, you’ve got PGALS.

I’m just getting over a bout of it myself. I recently finished creating and teaching the first cohort of my new high-level networking master class and competed in the “Huntsman World Senior Games,” winning my age group in the 800 meters and 1500 meters.

Once I got over the physical exhaustion, instead of feeling thrilled and proud, I was restless and listless. It’s a strange combination that really doesn’t put you in any kind of good mental state. I couldn’t really rest, but I also couldn’t wrap my head around another challenge yet.

I started feeling guilty about not celebrating during every waking moment. I was feeling let down instead of elated after making these big goals. That’s when I decided to name it PGALS… “Post Goal Achievement Letdown Syndrome.”

Turns out that post achievement depression is very common among high achievers.

Once you understand that, you too can take positive actions to not let this normal process drain away the value and excitement of what you just did.

Take Time to Celebrate and Reflect

Too often we’re like someone who gulps their food down without pausing. We gobble up that big win and before it even has time to digest, we’re grabbing for the next one. The harder and longer you worked to achieve something, the longer you should take to enjoy the results.

Linger over those vacation pictures, tell your marathon story over and over, gaze at your newly wedded beloved! Take your medals into your co-working space (confession: I still have them in my briefcase bag). Keep mementos visible such as the medal you earned or framed vacation photos.

We tend to forget over time how important something was or how big of a deal it was at the moment, especially if we’re constantly improving and our big goals are measurable things such as PRs or business sales goals.

If you keep a journal of your accomplishments be sure and write down how great it felt at the time to make that big win.

Understand The Hedonic Treadmill

This is our tendency as humans to return to a fairly narrow range of happiness over the long run even when really great or terrible things happen. Even though you’ve accomplished this incredible feat, built this amazing thing, etc. you still will be about as happy as you were before.

If you understand this, you can plan for and even anticipate that while the experience might be life or career-changing, it’s not going to make you magically more happy forever.

Don’t Fall for the Tyranny of Expectations

It’s not so much the actual results that are the problem, but what we expected to happen. If you thought you were going to get a $10,000 a year raise, and you “only” got a $5,000 raise, you might actually be mad. Even though you still got a raise.

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, is actually quite the practical philosopher as well as cartoonist. He subscribes to having “no expectations,” especially in particular to meeting new people. When he was single, he worked to meet lots of new people but had no expectation on whether he thought he would date them. As he said in a blog post, “If I meet someone with a 4.5 tennis level and lots of free time, perhaps I have a new tennis partner. If we click on some other level, that’s great too. No expectations.” (This is also great advice for networking by the way because it makes for a very pleasant first meeting.)

If it wasn’t as big a win as you expected, you might have won, but still be disappointed. I did this when I competed in the USATF Masters Nationals track meet. I ran a PR for the 1500 meters, but it wasn’t anywhere near what I was expected. My coach said, “I’ve never seen anyone so unhappy about a PR!” I realized I was being unfair to myself and immediately adjusted my attitude. Besides, if Coach is happy, the runner is happy!

Success Breeds Success

In the job search world, they talk about “transferable skills” meaning you might not have the exact experience they’re looking for, but something you’ve done can apply to the possibility of success.

That’s what achieving big goals can do for you. Once you’ve broken through a massive barrier, then that natural tendency to look around to figure out what you can conquer next is a great way to keep the momentum going. Just give yourself time to enjoy it and recuperate before climbing the next Grand Teton!

Even so, if you’re a high achiever, you’re probably always going to experience higher levels of restlessness and “Okay, next!” than your more mellow counterparts.

There’s value in knowing that it’s natural to have a let-down after a big goal. By putting a name to it like “Post Goal Achievement Let-down Syndrome,” I remind myself that it’s all part of the territory and that I can navigate it in a way that helps me continue to grow and develop while not losing my edge.

Take a moment and do the same for yourself.


BETH BRIDGES is the author of “Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful and Profitable Business Network.” She attended over 2,500 networking events in 10 years, secured a new job in 18 hours with one email, and launched a marketing consulting business through networking. She speaks at chambers of commerce, associations, and conferences across North America. Beth, 2018 Western Regional 400m and 800m W45 Champion, is training to compete in the World Masters Athletics Championships in 2020. Learn more at The Networking Motivator.


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Love, Loss and Networking: Why Your Networking Should be More Personal, by Beth Bridges

A column from Beth Bridges.

When I was the membership director for a large chamber of commerce, I attended over 2,500 networking events in 10 years.

Why!?

Why would anyone go to an average of more than one networking event per business day? Why would anyone frequently plan a day that started out with a breakfast meeting, a luncheon, an afternoon coffee meeting and then follow it up with an after hours networking event?

Because it was basically the only tool I had. “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

When I took that membership marketing job, there was no marketing budget. I didn’t have a sales team. It was just me and a willingness to go out, anywhere, any time to meet almost anyone.

My “why” was so that I could build the organization membership and ultimately be successful in my job. I was all business, all the time.

But it was also fun and friendly because I like just about everyone and I enjoy meeting new people. I connected deeply with a lot of the people I networked and did business with because I’ve always felt that business and personal networking had a lot of overlap.

Loss Showed Me What I Had Gained

I didn’t realize just how much I have intertwined my personal and business networking until I suffered a terrible personal loss.

I didn’t want to lean on my family (mom, dad and brother) because they had lost someone they loved too. Fortunately, my closest friends were there. But so were my business friends.

Whatever I needed, someone was able to help. Set up a complete potluck to feed 100 people at your memorial? Done. Get tables, chairs and linens donated and set up? Of course. Pick up dog food? Sure! And I’ll have another business friend drive it over to your house. Squirrels ate your sprinkler head? I’ve got the exact replacement here in my truck.

I heard from two or three different people day, just checking in on me.

These were people I’ve known for years, but they weren’t “personal” friends. I didn’t have them over for dinner. Their kids didn’t play with mine. We didn’t go to school together.

We did go to the same luncheons. We belonged to the same organizations. We were connected on Facebook and LinkedIn. It was always so friendly when we saw each other and I was always genuinely thrilled for their successes and saddened by their losses.

Somewhere along that businessperson-to-businessperson journey, it became person-to-person. I gained connections … and built friendships.

So I will call these people my friends. Just friends. Not contact. Not connections. Not business friends. Some people might say that you can’t make friends just through business networking.

Not only are they wrong, but they are missing out on a vital component for a happy, long and successful life.

How to Make Networking More Personal

Yes, as business people, our main “WHY” for networking can be for business. We want to get referrals, develop resources, and ultimately increase our sales to build our businesses. Or, if we’re not the business owner, we network to further our careers. We’re in a job search or we’re looking to earn a promotion or we want to do our job well, especially if we’re in sales or marketing.

Beyond business and career reasons, we should also be networking for personal reasons. A great deal of my personal growth has been inspired by my networking. It’s also how many of us to prefer to get our personal service needs fulfilled. We trust our friends to refer us to a reliable plumber, a great hairstylist and the newest best place to eat.

But if you wonder HOW to make friends when everyone else is all about business, here’s how to do it without feeling like the new kid on the playground, looking for new friends.

Don’t focus on getting their business right away.

Do you want to try to sell this person something right now or do you want to have a long-term connection and possible friend? Because the two are possibly mutually exclusive.

No one likes to get a cold-call sales pitch the first time they meet someone. They might judge you to be someone that you don’t want to be involved with.

Be patient and keep your sales prospecting activities a little more separated from your networking.

Be authentic.

We often feel constrained to only discuss business when we are business events. Loosen up! Talk about your life, your family and the things you love. Be your authentic self. Before you think this means you can go off about how hard your life is and how bad your business sucks, no. You need to be your best authentic self.

That means being your friendly, happy and open self. Someone who has good things in their life. Someone who is interested in sharing positive things.

When you’ve met a dozen people at an event, who stands out? The person with the most correct elevator pitch? Or the person who excitedly told you about their new puppy?

You want to be real and genuine and talk about things that matter to you. But not too much, of course. You have to balance this with the next strategy.

Think about their needs first.

If you’re not enthusiastic about networking events because you don’t like to go in and push your own product or agenda, you’re already on the right track. It’s also extremely helpful for introverted networkers.

Go into a meeting or event with the goal of finding out how you can help them first. Or maybe exclusively. It works in business networking because filling other people’s needs is how you give value.

Plus, it works in building personal relationships. Everyone is going through something. You might not be able to cure their cancer or dissolve their grief, but you can be a sympathetic listener. You have no idea how appreciated and valuable that is to someone who is going through something terrible and difficult.

… Or maybe you will.


BETH BRIDGES is the author of “Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful and Profitable Business Network.” She attended over 2,500 networking events in 10 years, secured a new job in 18 hours with one email, and launched a marketing consulting business through networking. She speaks at chambers of commerce, associations, and conferences across North America. Beth, 2018 Western Regional 400m and 800m W45 Champion, is training to compete in the World Masters Athletics Championships in 2020. Learn more at The Networking Motivator.


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