Today, it is all about the road, or the path, if you prefer. I just finished watching The Way and it was a very inspirational movie for me, with many parallels to my life. Thinking about roads and paths immediately brought many recent examples to mind. Speaking of mind, the MIND Research Institute’s theme for this year’s awards gala is Road Trip! My last road trip up to Orange County was for a committee meeting for this event.
I am a road warrior, in a more literal sense of the term as opposed to someone who travels a lot. I drive long distances throughout Southern California for a different reason than most other people who live here. In terms of total hours on the road, I am probably nowhere near people who commute only 10-20 miles to and from work every day. I often wonder if those who live and have to commute in Southern California are so weary from being in their cars and traffic that they cringe at the thought of driving absolutely any other place besides between their home and office.
I have lived in San Diego twice, Long Beach once and am about to move back up to Los Angeles County. I have been very fortunate to have either worked for myself or someone else in a home office for a majority of the years I have lived in Southern California. Working in sales and owning your own business makes attending networking events a required function. Lucky for me, I have never minded the long drive to attend these events and yet, I am one of very few people who will travel across county lines for a single event. Sometimes I wonder if I could get the same results by simply getting more involved with local groups instead of staying connected to groups who are further away.
Because my husband and I move every 1-2 years, I feel like a kid who has a hard time making friends in a new school. Thus, the reason local networking groups like chambers of commerce have never appealed to me: knowing in the back of my mind that I will eventually leave you and feel regret for not keeping in touch. This is the reason I was in love with LinkedIn when I first discovered it. I could keep in touch with my colleagues after one of us move on to another job or another company or another state! The updates feed used to be more useful before I collected too many connections and they integrated with Twitter. It used to be easy to see when someone changed a job or hear about what projects others were working on. Now, it is mostly links to articles and other Twitter-like updates.
This may be one of the reasons I like using Facebook for professional connections now. The difference is that I can see what my peers are doing in their personal lives and I feel a much stronger connection to them than I would without that information. I have created a sort of strange network in the cloud. However, I am not just sitting at home posting updates to Facebook and Twitter all day. Relationships with these people may have started online, but a majority of them were facilitated by an event. We were attending the same event and that was the reason we connected and/or we met in person at an event after we connected online and by attending these events, we kindle the fire. Part of my network does not reside in Southern California and it takes a bit more effort to create the same kind of interaction with these people. I have found that scheduling a happy hour on Skype or Google+ hangouts whether it is with one person or a small group helps foster that need to see and listen to people.
I realize the alternative would be (and maybe this is what most people do) to have personal and professional friends close by and spend time keeping those relationships thriving. It would not require so much time on the road. The road warrior / social network path is the one I prefer. I like to think that my network is richer because of the diversity of connections it is made up of. However, it is not who you are connected to that matters, it is what you do with those relationships that counts.
When is the last time you reached out to someone who helped you along your path?