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Stroke of Luck or Was It Planning? How A Swimming Goal Relates to Networking

Although there is water, water everywhere I am parched and I motion to my paddler for a sip of hydration.  You see, at 6:50am on 9/11/22 I launched from Satanka Cove to swim the 10K length of Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins, CO.  It’s the furthest distance I have ever swam (or is it swum, that one has always baffled me?).  I grew up with a pool in my backyard and although I was convinced there were sharks lurking in the filter and under the diving board I swam every day weather permitted.  Well, swim is maybe a stretch, I spent most of the time trying to drown my brother and he I, but I loved being in the water! In high school I joined the swim team and in 4 years I went from slowest swimmer to 4th at State.  And then, no swimming for a very very long time. I got into rugby, weightlifting, cycling, snowboarding, rock climbing, pretty much everything but swimming.  


Then at the end of last year I had this urge to get back in the water.  But I didn’t want to just do laps in a pool, I wanted to push myself, go outside my comfort zone.  Since it had been a grip of time since I had seriously swam and I am good at starting things but not always following through, I knew I needed a goal, a solid plan, and an accountability partner/wing person to ensure I followed through..  Whoa, wait, that sounds a lot like what we teach for achieving a return on networking.  Coincidence… I think not.


The first thing I did was outline a goal which was to participate in the Mountain Lake Swim Series. The series has 5 events giving me an opportunity to swim in a different environment, practice, and improve.  Kjjjjjjll[p0-l,og ,kf65dx (I stepped away from my computer for a moment and my cat decided to contribute to the blog, I am pretty sure it says ‘way to go Keith, good first step’).  Not a bad idea for networking as well.   Identify networking  events you’d like to attend and sign up for them and/or schedule them on your calendar. 


The second thing I did was outline a plan on what I wanted to accomplish and how I was going to make that happen.   For each event I determined how far I wanted to swim and what I needed to do to prepare. I started out small doing the 1.2 mile swims at first then working my way up to the 5ks as I got better.  Similar to networking, start with smaller or lower stakes events then work your way to larger or high stakes events.  Have a plan of what you want to achieve when at the event.


To prepare I knew I needed to find a lake in which to swim regularly.  It took some experimenting, like making the mistake of swimming in Cherry Creek reservoir (ew), but I finally found a comfortable and welcoming place to practice at the Chatfield gravel pond.  I’d recommend doing the same for working on your networking skills.  Find some comfortable places to practice your introduction, conversation starters, and stories and know you may have a couple of “ews” before you find them.


I also prepared for my events by eating well, getting enough sleep and focusing on hydration.  With networking, pre-event preparation is critical as well.  Get yourself in the right mindset by power posing, listening to your favorite music, perhaps even getting a swim (or other form of exercise) in shortly before the event.  

The third thing I did was get a safety paddler (aka a confidence buddy). That way, when the freshwater sharks started chasing, I could jump in the boat.  Funny thing is, those sharks never showed up. Having a safety paddler next to me when I first started training increased my confidence tenfold.  Eventually my reliance on my paddler diminished and it was simply a joy having them share the experience with me.  If you need a boost of confidence as you dip your toes back into the networking water, find a buddy to go with you, talk each other up and help each other out in conversations, just make sure you don’t just talk to each other - that’s not networking.  Eventually you’ll find your reliance on them will diminish, you just like knowing they are making new connections.  


After taking a sip from the bottle my safety paddler just threw me, I toss it back, flash a smile, then settle back into my stroke to finish my 10k stretch goal which couldn’t have happened without an initial goal, a plan, and a buddy.  


We are surrounded by networking opportunities, just like the water that surrounded me during my 10k swim.  However, it's rare to feel excited to network and almost impossible to find motivation to keep networking when it feels hard.   Let us help you outline a goal, put a plan together and be your buddy to not only keep you afloat but to excel.

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