Sometime in my early 20s I was standing outside a networking event at the Puck Building in New York and wrestling with my insecurities.
“Just go across the street and meet people,” I thought to myself. “Everyone in there is running an internet company like you. You have a lot in common with them. It’ll be easy to start conversations. Do it!”
But, the other side of me thought, “you don’t know anyone in there. And they all know each other. You’ll end up standing around quietly while everyone else is having fun.”
Eventually, someone might even say, “That’s Andrew? The guy who runs Bradford & Reed? I didn’t realize he was such a dork. Ha. His company almost had me fooled. I thought it was impressive. Turns out it’s another nothing operation, run by a nothing guy.”
My insecurities won that day. I didn’t go in.
Can you imagine how much of a failure I felt that day as I went home?
I started a company because I wanted to build something huge; mean- while I couldn’t do a little thing like go to a party. Any fve-year-old can go to a party, but I couldn’t.
Years later that day still stung. Badly.
My friends don’t know it, but one of the reasons I moved to LA was to give myself room to learn to break out of experiences like that. I wanted to live in a new city where I could practice meeting people every day, and not stop until I got comfortable being myself.
The frst thing I did was commit to a schedule of going out 6 nights a week, no matter what. And when I went out, my personal rule was that I had to talk to at least 5 strangers.
I screwed up a lot at frst.
I remember one time walking to a group of people at a party and saying, “How do you know Deb?”
One of them said, “We’re friends of her roommate, Steve.” And he then went back to talking to the group. He didn’t include me in the conversa- tion and I didn’t know what to do next, so I just stood there awkwardly as they all talked to each other.
I felt like a fool. But I committed to talking to more people that night and to going out the next night and the next night and the next.
Eventually I learned a few tactics that helped me get by. Like, don’t inter- rupt a group of people who are deep in conversation just to make small talk.
But there was something bigger that changed more subtly: I just learned to be more comfortable. Doing it every day, even on days I didn’t feel like it, helped me become a natural at meeting people.
A couple of years after I moved to LA, I even hosted my own networking event. The night before the party, I became almost as nervous as I was on the day I stood weakly outside the Puck Building. But when I got to the event, I eased up. All my practice made me feel more comfortable.
I was in a room full of people and I could talk to every one of them. It felt great.
I thought about that recently when I started doing video interviews with my heroes on Mixergy, my web site. The frst time Seth Godin came on, I said to myself, “You’re not a reporter. You’re an entrepreneur. You didn’t know the right questions to ask. The guy wrote about a dozen books. You didn’t read them all. You’re not prepared. You’re going to embarrass yourself and all of his fans will know you’re a dumb entrepreneur who got lucky in business.”
It’s true. I was pretty bad when I started. Very bad, actually. But I commit- ted to doing the work every day. Many people wondered why I insisted on posting a new interview every day, since it’s more than most of my audience can keep up with.
It’s because I learned that showing up every day and putting in the work can turn my life around. Haven’t you seen that in your life too?