If you have a Google News feed, a Feedly subscription, or if you’re old school and actually subscribe to a print newspaper, you know the advantages of staying informed.
You wake up every day and learn something new about the world. More importantly, you learn something relevant about what is happening right now.
There’s only one issue with this: Everyone else is learning the same thing.
The articles in your newsfeed are publicly available, which means everyone else with internet access has access to the same information, and therefore advantage, as you.
Your network, on the other hand, is unique to you. When you engage your network, you’re accessing a combination of trust and information that no one else has access to.
You might have a friend whose company is hiring a new CTO and offering a referral fee. If you have another person in your network who you know is looking for work, and would be a great CTO, you can connect them before anyone else knows about the position.
You get the referral fee and the chance to help both of your friends.
If you don’t know that your friend is looking for work, and you only hear about the job opening when it’s been publicly posted and 1,000 people have applied, you’ve lost your advantage and your opportunity.
There are thousands of examples similar to this one. Someone you know maybe be working on a project that connects to your life’s passion, or someone may have developed a technology you can invest in before anyone else.
The most exciting opportunities, and the ones you’re best positioned to take advantage of, are all hiding in your network.
Instead of reading news looking for opportunities, it’s time to learn how to “read” your network (or make them easier to “read” you).
Let Your Network Come To You—By Journaling
One of the best ways to find opportunities in your network is to let your network know what you’re up to. Externalizing your thoughts in a way that other people can consume and connect to—be it by giving speeches, writing a newsletter, or occasionally shouting in public places—lets your network into your mind and makes it easier for them to know how to help you.
This doesn’t mean write a blog post with an optimized headline and try to syndicate it in The New York Times. It means write what’s on your mind and share it with a small group of people you’d like to stay connected to.
If you talk publicly about what you’re interested in right now, what you’re actively pursuing, and what you want to happen in the future, there’s a good chance someone in your network can help you.
By keeping yourself “top of mind” among your connections, and letting them know how they can connect to you, you’re putting yourself in a better position to stumble across unique opportunities.
Pay Attention To Your Connections’ Journeys
Similarly, if anyone in your network has a newsletter for friends and family, a private Facebook page, or a LinkedIn account where they write articles, subscribe to them.
Anywhere where your connections are privately sharing their thoughts, you need to be. The value here isn’t in collecting information, but in getting to really know your connections. You become uniquely positioned to help them, because you see their life in higher resolution than others and can connect dots they can’t see.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve connected over the years just because I knew both parties well enough to draw a connection they couldn’t see. In some cases, these introductions have resulted in long-term partnerships and huge growth for both people.
And of course, I’ve been on the receiving end of this. So many of my steps forward in life have come from other people connecting the dots for me.
Even if there’s no business opportunity in it for you, it’s great to keep tabs on your friends. It’s always nice to be able to reach out and congratulate someone you care about, and it’s especially nice when they return the favor.
(Thanks to Caleb Kaiser, Zach Obront and Tucker Max for helping me express more clearly the ideas on this post.)