In late August of 2013, I was driving across Kansas, weary physically and whatever is much worse than weary mentally. It just hit me.
The event my wife Lauren and I started a year ago that had over 2000 people show up in Denver was about to ruin us. That drive began after the last of 10 events in 10 weeks in 10 cities across the country.
Without spending money on marketing, we averaged about 1200 people. Awesome right? Well, when we finally dig out of the debt we incurred from this “success” sometime in 2017, at this rate, I’ll share just how awesome those numbers really were.
Family lent us money, friends, credit cards did too. Ouch. Why wasn’t Lauren in that truck with me? Oh, she was pregnant with our second son, West. But I don’t get stressed. I just push that stuff wayyyyy back. And I thought on that long drive.
- Did I enjoy this? NOPE
- Was it fun? NOPE (besides some of the adventure or traveling)
- Was it profitable? Hell NOPE
Ok, no more cross country race series. We are really good at marketing but doing the jobs of 20 people just wasn’t doing it for us. Companies like Human Movement are really good event producers, we just seem to be ignorant idea machines at times. But enough about events.
Tons of people, zero connection
Here is the biggest takeaway. We had thousands of people do our event that summer and I knew none of them. Connected with zero people. It was sad.
On that drive across Kansas I decided to start Athlete On Fire. I would connect with people around the world. Inspire them. Hopefully teach them. It was in my wheel house and expertise.
I also decided to meet new people in person. Every other week I would find someone new to have coffee or a beer with. Entrepreneurs, clients, athletes, all of them. I wanted to connect. It worked. I felt better about my work and learned what others were passionate about.
I learned about myself and the fact that in such a lonely world, sometimes, we need to get back to the old way of doing things.
I mean, who is feeling a little lonely out there? Maybe not all the time but in a such a “social” world, it does amaze me that feeling lonely is more prevalent than it used to be, or should be. Really, it’s just a theory. Based on…
- Gym goers that never look up to make eye contact and never take their headphones out.
- Travelers that won’t say a simple “hello” or how are you when sitting an inch or two away.
- Happy going adventurous social media “sharers” that end up hopelessly depressed or worse.
I recently laid out how important it is for me to “DOUBLE DOWN” on people. I came up with most of it when I got back to Colorado that fall. It can happen in person or online. I’m sharing this because I hope it will help you look at connecting with people differently.
NOTE: Double Down is a gambling term (I don’t often) when you have the opportunity to put twice as much on the table to win twice as much. In this context, you are putting twice the effort into PEOPLE, not cash.
Doubling Down On People: An Outline
A. Reach out and get personal– Don’t wait to be invited to send a message or tell someone what they mean to you, even if you don’t know them. It’s powerful. Kalli, who has helped with this project for over a year did just that. Many did when my dad passed a couple months ago. I’ll never forget the gestures.
B. Schedule calls and emails– Meet someone on Twitter you find interesting? Ask for their email, or a call. I met Justin Kruse because he reached out with some questions about being a coach. We were on the phone on a Friday night and have since started a project together (more on this later).
C. Ask how to help– Social media and the online world is the “What can you do for me?” universe. Ask someone how you can help them. It’s an awesome feeling even if they don’t find ways you can help.
D. Follow Up– We have all dropped the ball on this one but it’s important if you want a real relationship.
E. Find ways to take it offline– My default is going for a run or hike. You’ll figure it out.
In Person: Random Encounters with People
A. Be open and flexible, engage– I don’t want to talk for a 4 hour flight anymore than you do but you have to say hi when someone sits next to you, every time. It’s decent people.
Sometimes, it turns into something way cooler. On a recent flight I gave my aisle seat on a Southwest Flight, the very last aisle or window seat to an older guy (71) I found out. Dudes, I’m 6’2” 200. Anyway, I walked away with his stories. His brother was an elite distance runner in the 60’s. He ran a marathon with a buddy on a bet on random roads with no fuel. He was a civil labor attorney and I have his number for any business consulting I need and I had two other contacts he thought would help me. WHAT? I couldn’t buy that type of connection online. I was open and flexible. I engaged.
B. Make it about them– Just listen. I have gotten so much better at this because I interview people and make it about them as much as I can. People love people who listen to them. People want to be around people that listen to them.
C. Collect experiences– Life is about experiences and I always look for new ones. Good conversation is an experience and so is getting out of your comfort zone to engage strangers. Christian Griffith regularly posts about this engagements with strangers. It’s inspiring for us to see and valuable to experience. Check out #liveforaliving
D. Be approachable– On the trail, at the store, airport, church, gym, and wherever. Be approachable. Head up. Headphones out at least some of the time. Eye contact. All of it. Be willing to have people approach you and it is so much easier to find connection. Most of these things are skills I am currently teaching my 5 and 3 year old. You can do it. It’s worth it.
And that’s it. Simple concepts. It’s in our DNA to connect with other humans and I promise, it will feel good when you do.
Let me know if I missed any way to connect. What has been working for you lately?
Scott Jones founded Athlete On Fire so he could connect with more people, more often. Sharing that part of the project has seemed important lately! Feel free to connect with him anytime!