You hang up the phone with a friend. You open an email from a colleague. You text someone you're meeting later. How do you feel after those interactions? If you're not gaining energy, enthusiasm and opportunity from most of the conversations you have, ask yourself this: Are you hanging out with the right people?
Can you imagine what your work, your life, or your business will be like five years from today? Every month that ticks by marks the passage of time, the one "non-renewable" resource that every entrepreneur wishes they had more of. Maybe it's time to use your time better, and choose wisely with whom to spend it. To be "on purpose" with your focus on success.
A mentor of mine once told me, "The life you have, the friends you can count on, the books you read, and even the restaurants you eat in, will come down to the five people you spend time with this weekend. Choose them wisely, because their recommendations and ideas influence you more than you can imagine." I've heeded that advice for the past 18 years, and I've learned three things:
1. First impressions matter. More than "what you do," people will walk away talking about "who you are." The next time you work on how you introduce yourself, consider writing it from their perspective. Write out a few lines (no more than a paragraph) that you'd want someone to remember after their first conversation with you. Practice it five to 10 times, and then edit it for the next five to 10 people you meet.
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2. Follow up immediately. After that initial "exchange of energy" from meeting someone, you have an opportunity to drop back into their life sometime later that week. Depending on what you spoke about, and especially if you promised to get them something, follow up with something specific to the conversation. Also, consider sending something that reinforces the first impression you hoped to make. If they're going to be someone who might influence you over the next five years, you'll want them to know a little more about you.
3. Give more, sooner. The best time to build a network is when you have something to give. Reflect on your body of knowledge, your life experiences and your own personal and professional interests. This month, offer to host a Q&A session for your local Rotary. Offer to write, publish and print a "mini-manifesto" about success for the high school you graduated from. Offer to present your "My Toughest Life Lesson and What I Learned" for a local entrepreneurs' club.
Make it a priority to meet the next person who will influence your future in positive ways. Just think: if you only met one new person each quarter, within two years you could have a life that's not only different from the one you're experiencing today, you could be richer because of it. Rich in experience, in contribution, in health … and in your business ventures.
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Jason W. Womack is founder of the Womack Co., a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He also founded TimeToGetMomentum.com to coach a global community of entrepreneurs in skills to thrive in business. Womack is the author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More(Wiley, 2012).