Networking: “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop contacts.” Since the advent of social media, shortly after the millennium (the year 2000), the idea of networking has been cheapened to getting as many “followers” as you can. The fact that the vast majority of those are not actually following you or even know you is hardly a concern. Real networking has to do with real relationships and real investment in those relationships. Do you think quality or quantity is more important in relationships? Which one is more helpful to your success in life?
There is an old saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Back in the day, and still today in more communal cultures, people raise their kids together. 30 years ago, kids may be eating dinner in any number of neighborhood homes and that was normal and fine. Everyone knew each other and they just shared their kids. This was healthy for the youngsters. It gave them a chance to observe the different ways families did life together. They also had a number of adults they could talk to. Today teens mostly just listen to each other and most of the time that equates to the blind leading the blind.
I had a mentee nearly 20 years ago named Jeff McFarlin. Jeff came across a little like a leach at first. He targeted adults and tried to impress them. I was annoyed by him at first. But as I got to know Jeff, I saw a lot of wisdom in him. He definitely targeted adults, but not as a teacher’s pet. He was educating himself and networking. He knew the day would come when those relationships would be quite useful. At high school basketball games it was normal for the teens to be sitting together sharing whatever high school drama/gossip was hot that night. But Jeff was sitting with the adults more often than not. While his friend was trying to impress chicks, Jeff was impressing his friend’s dad who owns a business by asking all the right questions: “How do you run a payroll?”, “How do you find good help?”, “How do business taxes work?” By age 17, Jeff had his own business cleaning the refineries near our town. He was hiring people twice his age to work for him and do the grunt work! This is the power of networking.
The village is not only about successful businesses. It’s also helpful for all the growth pains of adolescence. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to adults other than mom and dad about hard things. So many adolescents do not have those resources because they’ve doubled down on their relationships with other teens; and often the other teens are not the best resources. Many teens would never have gone down the dark paths they’ve taken if they had a healthy relationship with grandma and grandpa or Mr. and Mrs. Jones next door, because these resources would almost certainly have given better advice than the advice disturbed peers can offer.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your future is get some healthy adult mentors. This may be outside your comfort zone. In this case, getting past your comfort zone also means getting past mediocre. Greatness lies beyond this comfort zone. You can do it. Find adults who care enough to be available to you. They are out there waiting for a teenager to show they are interested in what they have to say. They are your village.