Unlocking opportunity: The crucial ingredient you're missing

How many times have you heard the saying “you are who you associate with”? My best guess is that I've only heard it around 20,000 times, and for about the first 19,980 I had no idea what it actually meant. It was a nice concept, and one I understood in theory. But, I never understood the full power of influence until it started manifesting in my life. Maybe I'm just too self-absorbed. Maybe I just didn't really understand the concept enough. Either way, the more I dive into the power of the group, the more I realise it can be the difference in everything. You have to “get in the room”. Sure, I always understood that being around smart people meant you could learn from the best. But, I had no idea how many other vital parts this group dynamic plays in unlocking opportunity in different parts of life. If you're not even in the room, you'll never know!

For me, this idea was reinforced by a recent episode of the James Altucher Show podcast . Listening to James and Ramit Sethi chatting about this topic lit up the little light bulb in my head and made me realise how important it was that I moved into a co-working space about two years ago.

Previously, Maciek and I had worked side by side with very little outsider input for over 5 years. While that was great, surrounding ourselves with other people with different skills and experiences was fundamental in starting Beyond Billables. Maciek and I had spoken about doing this for many years, but we always had something holding us back. I realise now that it was most likely a lack of exposure to people doing things differently. The power of the group is not just in helping to inspire and teach us, but in the contacts and connections the group ends up facilitating. For me, that was sitting beside Ronsley Vaz, podcasting guru and creator of the WeArePodcast summit. If I hadn't moved to co-working, I never would have met Ronsley. If I hadn't met Ronsley, we probably wouldn't be trying to change the world one lawyer at a time.

Nice story Mike, but what does that have to do with me?

Maybe you're at a crossroads and thinking about making some change. Surrounding yourself with great people can open up new opportunities that you'd never even imagine. So what can you learn?

  • You can learn the power of other people's connections

  • You can learn not to make the same mistakes they have!

  • You can learn from what has worked for them and do it yourself!

The power of the network

One of the biggest lessons we've learned in the last year has been the power of personal connection. Growing your network can open up opportunities you can't even imagine.

We started a podcast as a way to create content that tells people's stories, but the great pay off for us has been in building new relationships. From these new relationships have come new contacts and many of our upcoming guests are “friends of friends”. And so the network grows.

Building connections leads to more invitations to get into the room where opportunity resides. You don't even get to enter the room without a personal connection. You can't buy your way in; you have to earn it through building a connection.

For me, a lot of what we have achieved stemmed from deciding to “be in the room” at WeArePodcast 2016. I subsequently met some amazing people who changed the way I viewed podcasting and the way in which I could help the lawyers of the world. It took the physical action of going to an event to open the doors that led to us launching Beyond Billables.

For many introverts, building a bigger and more diverse personal network can be downright terrifying. That's ok. It will be hard work and you will have to get out of your comfort zone. There are, however, great ways to “network” more comfortably - like, at an event where everyone has a mutual interest or through online groups that become offline connections. You don't have to be that guy or girl “working the room”. But, you have to be in the room and you have to find your own way to start building connections.

Learning from others

I love to travel and always feel like I return a wiser, more inclusive and more worldly human, simply by the magic of being around a different culture.

If you're not even “in the room”, how could you possibly learn from other people's success or failure?

Having a diverse network gives you a huge advantage. It allows you the chance to see success and failure on a personal level, from a variety of angles.

I don't know about you but, sometimes, I need to hear things from a different person in a different way for it to finally sink into my skull and make sense. For instance, for so many years people told me, “Mike, relax. Why do you worry so much?” I always thought my manic state was how I kept myself going and prevented me from sitting at home playing PlayStation all day. It actually took someone else telling me about their own personal experience of stress that was so similar to mine, that the penny finally dropped. I realised, through their story, how stress manifested physically for me. That realisation felt like earth shattering logic, except I had heard the exact same thing at least 10 times from other people and it had never resonated with me.

Being around successful people also helps lift your confidence immeasurably. So often, I find new people who are shooting the lights out in their chosen field and I say to myself “if that guy can do it, then surely I can”. Surrounding yourself with successful people in diverse fields is hugely powerful to help drag you along.

Being “in the room” will also help you appreciate that not everything is easy. In fact, you'll see people who have made significant stuff ups and, if you're wise, you will learn from their mistakes. Sit down with me and I'll bore you to death with the list of things I've done that you shouldn't copy.

There is a lot of value in being a fly on the wall; learning from what other people do and trying to learn from both the good and the bad.

But, if you're not in the room, you'll never even begin to understand the opportunity.