People often ask me for advice and insight into entrepreneurship and careers (which still amazes me). Probably the most common question that they ask is “How the hell did you get involved in these opportunities? Why are you so lucky? Is it because you’re Irish?” I hate to deny the mystical benefits of my ancestry, but much of my success can boiled down to one factor (hint: it’s not luck). Can you guess what it is?
Balls. Yes, that kind.
Every day, millions of ordinary, average people are presented with opportunities and chance encounters that could change their life- but very few actually take advantage of them. In some cases it’s simply because we aren’t trained to be aware of them. However, I suspect that most of the time Average Joe and Average Jane recognize the possibilities, and decide (sometimes subconsciously) not to do anything about them. Whether it’s because of societal pressures, insecurity, risk-aversion, or simple fear, people always seem afraid of “putting themselves out there.”
At Tabbie, we currently have over 60 bars signed up to list on the website (including our as-yet-unlaunched new regions). For each of these places we had a sit-down meeting with either the bar owner or general manager, at which we got know them and sold them on Tabbie’s value. With a few of these meetings we were lucky enough to leverage some relationship to get the introduction; however, the vast majority of these meetings happened through one simple strategy:
I walked in and said “hi there, may I talk to your manager?”
Seriously. It’s that simple. Did it make me a little nervous at first just strolling into a bar cold and trying to get a meeting? Of course. But I quickly learned that bar/club owners and managers are actually really nice on average. And, incidentally, so are most of the other important people that I meet. Just like that old theory that “the most beautiful women are often single because most men are afraid to ask them out,” most of us are too scared to network with important and powerful people because we assume that they don’t want to be bothered.
As an example of this principle in action, my dad likes to recount the story of his friend who won the Nobel prize in physics in the 90’s. Before they met, my dad was organizing a conference at which this particular guy would have been a top international expert in the field, so my dad decided to email an invitation to him just for the hell of it. To his surprise, this Nobel Laureate called him right back the next day thanking him for the opportunity and saying he’d love to go. Later, the man recounted his experience winning the Nobel prize (I’m paraphrasing the exact dialogue, of course):
“During the lead up to the Nobel results, I expected that if I won I would be overwhelmed with invitations to do conferences and papers and such. Amazingly though, once I actually won everyone STOPPED inviting me to things for the most part. I guess everybody just assumed that now that I was a ‘big shot Nobel Laureate,’ I would be too busy running around the world doing ‘important Nobel Laureate things.’ But since everyone was too afraid to bother me about coming to anything, I ended up going to nothing! So thank you for having the balls to invite me to this conference- it’s nice to come back and do one of these again.”
The need for having balls extends beyond networking and sales though. It also applies to any major life or career move you make, including the decision to start your own company. I’m not saying that everyone should go out and start taking huge risks; a conservative cost-benefit analysis is also very valuable. What I’m saying is that once you have made the decision to do something, you need to follow Nike’s advice and just do it! This may sound like pointless advice to those of you who aren’t afraid to take decisive action, but you would be amazed at how many people never take that final leap to do what they already know needs to be done.
So go, right now. Call your cousin about the awesome job they could get you into. Take that brilliant idea for an app and start making it real. Stop putting off that diet & exercise regimen you’ve been meaning to do since New Year’s Eve 2005. The opportunities for a better life are out there, and the only one preventing you from taking them is you.