The most successful business people are inundated with requests and invitations to support community, charitable, or benevolent causes by joining a board, sitting in on meetings or conference calls, or attending events.
We are asked to use our professional skills on a volunteer basis and often, it seems as if more time is spent on these projects than on work itself. Sometimes you may ask, “Why me?” The answers may vary, but usually it’s because you’re good at what you do and know how to get things done in a timely fashion.
I’m facing that issue now. As demands on my professional life are increasing, I feel as if I’m on a merry-go-round whose speed is exponentially whirling faster and faster, and sometimes I just want to get off. But here’s the problem: I follow a mantra, “Accept Every Invitation.’
For years, I didn’t have a name for what I was doing, but it went something like this: I’d get an anxious call from someone asking for help on a variety of levels. The person would request my attendance at a meeting or to join the group. Naturally I’d want to say “no,” but like many people, I have a tough time turning down a plea for assistance. Then I’d hop into my car, drive dozens of miles, usually during rush hour traffic, all the while inwardly grousing about how my time would be better spent working on projects. And why was I doing this anyway? Why was I driving to a meeting for a group I knew nothing about? But then I’d heat up my resolve, go into the meeting, and put on a good face as if I really wanted to be there.
A funny thing happened: I met people — good people — learned a host of things I didn’t know, and magically found ways to help solve the problem by connecting them with helpful information via people or organizations I knew that they didn’t know existed. After the meeting, I’d gained new insight and instantly, the drive home certainly seemed much shorter than the drive there. I found myself thinking, “Wow, am I glad I attended that gathering.” More often than not, there was a purpose for the information or the connections made that day. And frequently, this leads to greater, unanticipated rewards.
The definition of inertia is: “a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.” In business, or in life, inertia can stealthily creep into your mindset for it is far easier to do nothing or say “no” than to take on new and unexpected journeys, because it will likely lead to more work. It is also far easier to sit at home watching TV rather than venture out in bad weather to a meeting or gathering you’ve been invited to. However, in doing that, you run the risk of missing that one plum opportunity you may have been searching for all your life. In my case, it has been several plums.
Accept every invitation? You may say “there’s no way,” or “I’m too busy” or “I have enough in my life.” I understand. I said that, too. But then I changed, realized that by doing this, I entered into an entirely new revelation of what it means to be truly involved with the community.
Or, you can settle in with inertia and maintain the status quo. The sad part is, you’ll never know what could have evolved, but didn’t.
Networking truly does work but it doesn’t work by itself, you must make the effort.
Janina Parrott Jacobs is an international golf and travel writer/editor/speaker; health and fitness writer for St. John Providence Health System; professional musician and performer as director of music at St. Basil Church and other churches within the Archdiocese of Detroit; and owner of Capers Steakhouse and catering division in Detroit.