It’s been my experience that creatives often feel a sense of pressure when confronted with the idea of “networking” or “building connections.”
Lest you consider me unsympathetic, I was very much confronted by the idea of holding a conversation with a stranger, let alone ordering food at the mall food court, in my early 20s. It took me a long time just to feel safe and comfortable with a seemingly simple exchange like that.
If we were to think of our comfort zone as a series of concentric circles, it follows that there would be a new level of comfort to develop at each step – saying “hi,” holding a meaningful conversation, making a request, asking someone out on a date, and so on.
The whole idea of comfort zones and degrees of comfort, and even the idea that you can’t network because you’re an introvert, is all made up. They are conventions to help us better understand ourselves and our surroundings, but rarely do they hold up as concrete rules without exception. Also see: Make believe.
Which is to say, it’s fine to approach the idea of a comfort zone as if you were leveling up a character in a role-playing video game, so long as you understand that you’re basically making up the rules as you go. I’m a big fan of gamifying life.
But innumerable anomalies exist in thinking there is only linear progression and no exponential progression available.
For instance, someone could go from saying “hi” to asking their crush out in a hot minute, if the desire and motivation was strong enough.
I have also found that seemingly small things like the day you’ve just had, the consumption of caffeine or alcohol, or reading 10 pages from a book can alter what you perceive as being possible for yourself. Basically, your willingness to act is a moving target, regardless of personal temperament.
All that to say, one connection can change everything. Sometimes, just one conversation can change everything. I know because I just had one of those conversations today. I can see it being a game changer in how I approach content creation, which is something I enjoy, but at times, has been a burden.
Sourcing everything from your own mind sets certain limitations in place, since you can only act on what you know, and what you know that you don’t know. If you know how to write, you can use that. If you know that you can’t speak German, you can at least take the first step today in learning a new language.
But there exists another category of knowledge – what you don’t know that you don’t know. You can’t penetrate that barrier without reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a video, taking a course, getting into conversations, and the like.
If you source everything from what you know, you’re leaning solely on your past. That’s the biggest limitation of all. The past doesn’t equal the present let alone the future. The past can’t necessarily tell you the best course of action now. It can help, but its accuracy and efficacy are in question.
When it comes to connecting, you don’t need to force anything. You can simply allow. You can allow others to contribute. You can allow yourself to ask “stupid” questions. You can allow yourself to feel whatever you feel in terms of physical symptoms when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time. Emotions and physical symptoms don’t make an interaction “bad.”
Your next breakthrough may be waiting on the other side of a conversation. Maybe not. But how will you know unless you try?
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