View this post as a Tweetstorm.
There is such thing as a free lunch.
A win-win-win situation.
All it takes is a 30 second email and poof. When executed correctly, it will unleash a torrent of job opportunities, business partnerships, and consulting work. Heck, maybe even a romantic relationship.
But there’s a catch: this magic isn’t for you. It’s for the people in your network. Friends, colleagues, neighbors and surfing buddies.
Meet the Mutually Beneficial Introduction – or the “MBI.”
A rising tide lifts all boats
I’ve always had a quirky belief at the intersection of relationships, communities and positive-sum thinking:
If two people should know each other – and I know them both – then it’s my fundamental duty to connect them.
And so I did. With a commitment to the practice that has lasted for over a decade. I’ve made one MBI per day for 10+ years. Now while the practice is 100% centered around others, something funny tends to happen: luck seems to find you.
So many of the great gifts in my life can be traced to MBIs: My coaching practice. The Oprah for Millennials article. Joining Quartz as their first Entrepreneur in Residence. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference.
But first a word of caution
We’ve all been on the receiving end of an introduction we didn’t want to be a part of. Either we were too busy. Didn’t have any common ground. Or knew the person through other channels. Once an MBI is sent, it becomes super awkward to reverse (which often results in someone begrudgingly taking the meeting.)
Thankfully there’s an easy fix: the double opt-in. Please heed Fred Wilson’s simple advice:
When introducing two people who don’t know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it.
During this phase, it’s also important to clarify that MBIs are not “pick your brain meetings,” nor are they mentoring meetings. Irrespective of the meeting type, the expectations need to be set up front.
How to begin
So you’re convinced and ready to become a serendipity machine. What’s next? As you meet people, be curious, listen actively and genuinely care.
Then sit back and the magical connections will reveal themselves.
Grow your curiosity antenna
Remember that MBIs are an act of service driven by genuine curiosity. They require you to understand someone else’s dreams, passions and interests. They require you to notice when someone’s body language changes due to uncontainable excitement. You’re able to answer “What activity makes time melt away?” on their behalf.
Listen actively and with compassion
There’s a simple ratio to becoming a good listener: 90% listening, 10% talking. This is much more difficult than it seems, for a few reasons:
- We love to hear the sound of our own voices
- It’s easier to talk thru an awkward silence
- Listening is passive (making it easy to lose interest)
Unfortunately, here you can’t fake it til you make it. You can’t fake genuinely caring, which is what separates the Transactional MBI from the Heartfelt MBI.
Move beyond the obvious
When you meet someone it’s tempting to bucket them into known categories. A lazy mental model is to mentally rebuild their LinkedIn profile. The simplified story becomes “oh they went to USC, majored in Business and now work as a consultant at Deloitte.”
And this translates to lazy MBIs. Do you think two Deloitte consultants want to meet? Or two random USC alums? Possibly, but you’d be missing huge chunks of the story.
Instead, consider an alternative question: “What can’t you learn about this person from a Google search?” Maybe they love Air Maxes. Or they lived in Ubud for 6 weeks. Or are passionate about board (of director) diversity. These are the MBIs that sing.
Have a system, hold it lightly
Now you’re armed with the tools to be a thoughtful and intentional connector – one looking to serve others. And this is where people go off the rails, with the Personal CRM. They go crazy building elaborate setups (in Notion or Airtable) or researching SaaS CRM products.
But it’s a total miss of the trees from the forest. Your good old first brain is quite good at clearing the pareto principle for identifying the great MBIs. Sure, a list or spreadsheet with a few tags can help, but never underestimate the power of someone who genuinely cares.
So here’s my challenge to you. Commit to making one MBI per week by investing in the life outcomes of people you care about the most. Like any new habit, it will initially feel difficult. But if you genuinely care you’ll clear that tipping point before you know it. You’ll watch in awe as the serendipity engulfs the people around you.
And you never know, some might find you too.