I want to talk about Bravery. I attended a Networking event yesterday on accident (a story for another time), and something happened there that was special and magical, but first I want to set the stage.
This event was like a dating service for entrepreneurs. The people who attended were looking for their professional partners.
There were two types of people at this event.
- People who had companies and wanted to meet people who could help execute their vision.
- People who had certain skills and wanted to be hired or partner with the people with the vision.
Like most networking events, people trickled in slowly and timidly, wearing awkward name tags with colored dots indicating who they're looking for. Some in suits and some in jeans clung to their phones and pretended to attend to urgent emails and texts. No one wanted to be seen sitting by themselves, no one wanted to be the first to approach. There is always this feeling from the early people, that everyone is avoiding each other even though they are all there to meet each other. Oh, if we were only 5 years old again and walking up to a stranger was no big deal.
The moderator set the stage and gave tips and guidelines for networking. A nice touch. He pointed out the pile of pizza boxes in the back and the beer on tap. Most people dread going to networking events. It is always a nice touch when there is food, but the liquor also tends to loosen everyone up a bit and not be so nervous.
Ok, here is the story:
I was cornered by "The Networking Guy". You know the one, he attends these events like it is his job. He is there on a mission to sell himself, determines if you are useful within 30 seconds, and if you are not useful, he finishes the conversation without eye contact because he is scanning the room for his next victim. Noticing this, I was looking to end the conversation as well.
All of a sudden we were approached by this man. He was a large man, once blonde, but now bald, clear blue eyes and a friendly round face. He held tightly to his chest a pile of bright red business cards. The cards matched the color of his t-shirt, I had determined it was no accident. He said with an accent “Hello, Do you have my card? My name is Tom I have company that does web and app development. We do digital work for companies”. Networking Guy interrupted him to make a joke about the business card matching his shirt. Tom look puzzled and apologized. In his broken English he explained he is just learning to speak the language and didn't understand the joke.
Seemingly unfazed, he was insistent on finishing his pitch, and with a little bit of fumbling he moved to the next group and proceeded with the same scripted speech.
Networking Guy and I looked at each other and could not help but to give props to Tom and his bravery. First if all, we know it is hard to approach a group of people at an event. Secondly, we know how intimidating it is to try speaking a language you haven't mastered with native speakers. This man was doing both, and with person at this event.
I found him at the end of the night after his cards were all handed out. I told him how brave I thought he was. I was not sure that if faced with the same circumstances, I would be able to do the same thing.
He looked at me with that round face and a huge smile and said “Brave? Oh no, that is not brave at all! You see, I am from Ukraine. I am living in middle of a war. My friends have died, I had to leave my family, and I am trying to bring my family here." Then he explained, "Here, there is pizza, beer and smiling faces. This so easy!" He laughed.
Ahh, I am so grateful when perspective smacks me in the face.
Here is what I challenge my clients to do. I have them think about these three things ahead of time so they are already armed when facing things that are tough.
- Where do you get your motivation?
- When you are faced with situations that are hard, is it hard, where do find your Brave?
- Do you ask yourself What is the brave thing to do?