Are you a team player? Someone who likes to help others succeed? Someone who likes to help others learn either through what you’ve learned or by mistakes you’ve made? I thought most people were. I know, I know – I put the N in naive. What can I say? I’m an optimist who, for most of my life, has lived by the rule that if I think that way then most other people do too. What does that mean? That means it doesn’t occur to me not to help someone who could benefit and who I don’t think is out to scam me. Does it occur to me to look at them as competition or as a colleague? Nope. I don’t swim in that C.
I realize that the opening of this post sounds a bit cheerleader-ish. One of those rah-rah, let’s go team moments that most people don’t need in the morning, however, through this entrepreneurial journey I’ve had a few epiphanies that have taken my N down to an n. Or at least I hope so. Most of these epiphanies have occurred as I’ve reached out to people I would consider mentors and have developed relationships with people who had no reason to become a mentor other than the C they swim in.
One of my first meetings with someone in the industry started out well enough. I was a newbie and I knew that. No illusions or naivete there. But what I didn’t expect was to be seen as competition. Or at least I didn’t expect to have the meeting go the way it did and have someone else point out to me that being seen as competition was the reason this person said what they said. No need for details: if I’m using it as a bad example, I’m sure you get the drift. This person went out of their way to tell me how my inexperience was a complete hindrance to any type of success in the communications industry and I was crazy to think that I could ever start a business on my own. I might as well have been wearing a giant N on my forehead according to this person.
I walked away from this meeting feeling a bit defeated, surprised and mildly shocked that I was seen with so little value by this person. What I now understand, and what others saw much easier and earlier, was that they didn’t want me swimming in their waters. They didn’t want anyone else cutting in on potential territory. They saw me as competition not a colleague as I had seen them.
I have to say that since then, I have been so fortunate to build a team of people who see me as a colleague and have opened their brains to me on a regular basis. They’ve offered to share contacts, lessons learned and give advice that I will be forever grateful for. What’s the payback for them? Well from their perspective, probably just a good deed done. I honestly believe (I might be wearing a bit of a small n right now) that they want to help. That they know I truly value them as colleagues and will pay it forward. I do this by referring people to them and looking for opportunities that we can work together and have a mutual benefit. They were once the bright eyed entrepreneurial newbie and maybe they remember with kindness and appreciation the person who gave them a helping hand rather than cutting them down.
What’s my point? My point is that how you see the world really effects how the world see’s you. I know that’s not profound in any way but when it comes down to competition or colleague, I think it makes all the difference in the world. It’s highly unlikely that I will ever make a referral to the people who chose to see me as competition. I don’t mean everybody should spill their guts to me but I’d rather you just don’t take the meeting than spend that meeting telling me how much I’m going to fail and how spectacularly I’ll be doing that. No latte is worth the weeks it took me to understand what went on in those meetings.
I can’t wait to be in a position where I can mentor, teach and guide some new entrepreneur. If they are a better fit for someone I saw as a potential customer GREAT! Go for it. If you can do something better than me, then you deserve the work. That won’t stop me from helping you because I will benefit either way. I get to share information and I get to see what you’ve learned. Anyone who says they know everything about communications is out of their freaking mind. The second you believe that and stop learning, well, have I got a meeting for you. I hope if we ever meet you’ll see me as the colleague in communications that I see you as. If you see me as competition, well, I’ll now know to take that as a compliment too. Look! Another C to swim in 🙂