Networking has a bad reputation. It is associated with self-enrichment, selfishness, and snobbery. But, at its core, it is nothing more than a search for help. It arises from a fundamentally modest awareness of how fragile and limited each of us is, and therefore how much we need the support and strength of others.

Networking is only as good or bad as its ends. In history, there are very impressive versions of this activity. The ancient Greek story of the Argonauts tells how the heroic Captain Jason traveled the countryside creating webs to gather a group of associates to aid him in his search for the legendary Golden Fleece. Jesus of Nazareth networked to form a team of disciples who would help him spread a message of love, redemption and sacrifice.
Networking means filtering intelligently, recognizing that you can't -and shouldn't- try to know everyone. It involves aligning one's path through the world with a mission. It involves wisely recognizing that we do not have unlimited time.

Ideally, our networks should be broad, diverse, and absolutely snobbish, because we can see that useful information, valuable skills, perspectives, opportunities, and guidance can be found in a lot of very unexpected places. In espionage, this key point has been deeply understood: contact with embassy cleaning staff can be just as productive as with the economic attache; the waiter can be as rich a source of information as the general. We can transfer this refreshing attitude of openness to the world at large. We can learn as much about business from a bankrupt as from a successful CEO; the taxi driver may -in the middle of the conversation- have one or two key things to teach us; the person in the beanie by the bus stop can provide the starting point for a new business idea. With a higher conscious mission, networking ceases to be a brutal and discriminatory activity. It's just a way to make sure we're never far from harvesting ideas and help.


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