The word “networking” elicits a picture in the minds of most people as a business event filled with stereotypical salespeople all “working the room”; fast-walkin’, slick-talkin’, aggressively sticking their business cards into the face of everyone they meet and saying clever things like, “Hey, give me a call—I’ll cut you a deal.”

Even if we’re speaking strictly in a business sense, the above certainly is not networking. Actually, it’s . . . well, come to think of it, I’m not exactly sure what it is, but it’s not networking.

Networking can be defined as “the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win/win relationships.” A network itself is simply—at least according to Webster’s—any arrangement of fabric or parallel wires, threads, etc., crossed at regular intervals by others fastened to them so as to leave open space.

Now, let’s leave out the words and thoughts in both definitions (mine and Webster’s) that don’t apply to us and keep in those that do. Oh, and let’s substitute the word “people” in the dictionary definition for the words “fabric,” “parallel wires,” and “threads”:

Network: An arrangement of people crossed at regular intervals by other people, all of whom are cultivating mutually beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships.

This definition of networking transcends business and applies to practically any aspect of our lives.
No matter the type of network in which you’re involved, be it social, religious, charitable, or some other kind, you are at the center. Of course, everyone else is at the center of his network as well, and that’s as it should be.

Each of the people in a network serves as a source of support (referrals, help, information, etc.) for everyone else in that network. Those who know how to utilize the tremendous strength of a network realize the following very important fact: “We are not dependent on each other, nor are we independent of each other; we are all interdependent with each other.” The true strength really comes through when realizing that the people in your network are also part of other people’s networks, and that, indirectly, makes each of those people part of your network too. (Since it’s been documented that most people know about 250 other people, you can see how the numbers add up!)

However, here’s the key ingredient—the secret, if you will—of those who derive the most benefit from their networks: they themselves are the biggest givers! Lots of people think that the way to derive the most from their network is to be a taker. In other words, the question they’re continually asking themselves is, “What can I get from my network?” However, the biggest winners, and those who ultimately derive the greatest benefits, are the ones who, instead, ask, “What can I give to my network?”

This makes a huge difference. When it comes to networking in the sales vernacular, there’s a saying I like to call the “Golden Rule”:

All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.

Again, since networking is for more than simply business, we can even readjust the “Golden Rule” slightly and say that

All things being equal, people will help and support, and go out of their way to find help and support for, those people they know, like, and trust.

In a sense, you could say that the goal of networking is to develop relationships with those you’d like to have in your network so that they know you, like you, and trust you, they want to see you succeed, and they will go out of their way to help you be successful. In fact, they will become your Personal Walking Ambassadors.

The question is, how do you cultivate those feelings of “know, like, and trust” in others? You become the type of person worthy of those feelings. One way of doing that is to be willing to freely give yourself to others in such a way that you continually “add increase” to their lives. How? Constantly ask yourself, “What does this person need, and how can I help her to get it?” Does she need information? A connection? What can you do to help that person attain what she needs?

Think of your network as an opportunity to provide as much value as you can to others. Your focus is on them, not on you, and this way, you’re planting so many seeds of goodwill that you’re developing that support system right before your eyes. Eventually, you’ll have a powerful network of Personal Walking Ambassadors, just welcoming the opportunity to add positively to your life.

Is this “real-world” type of thinking? Yes, it is. Remember: “All things being equal, people will help and support, and go out of their way to find help and support for, those people they know, like, and trust.” To develop these feelings toward you in others, you must first add to their lives in a significant way.

Yes, add to their lives first! If you want to make friends, you must first be a friend. If you want to make money, you must first invest some money. If you want to build a huge network, you must first be the networker, and that means to be a giver.

But here’s the catch, the “Grand Paradox of Networking,” and it’s what the people I call “SuperStar Networkers” all know: while understanding that the more you give to others, in a genuine and caring way, the more abundance will eventually come back to you, you cannot be demanding, or emotionally attached, to the idea of having to receive directly from those to whom you gave. Doing that will position you negatively, not positively. People will forever be suspicious of your motives. Instead, just trust the many seeds of goodwill that you plant will come back to you. They will, many times over.

Understand, of course, there are people who will simply never buy into this concept and will think those of us who believe in it are naïve. All I can say is that the results have proved otherwise, and there’s a good reason for that. Obviously, when you consistently give, in an intelligent way, to others and benefit them, they want to do for you; they want to tell others about you; they want to see you benefit as well. And the more you do this without the emotional attachment to receiving in-kind, the more powerfully you affect them and the more they feel as though they know you, like you, and trust you.

Here’s one more secret: Superstar Networkers focus on connecting with other successful givers. They tend to refer each other to those in their networks. Before long, a huge web of Superstar Networkers is formed, each of whom is focusing on helping the others in his network. While helping the others takes very little in the way of resources (other than a bit of thought and time), the rewards are so lucrative that you’ll be amazed and delighted.

In a sense, you could say that the ultimate goal of networking—regardless of the type of network it is—is the building, cultivating, and developing of a very large and diverse group of people, who will gladly and continually be there for you, while you are there for them.

Changing your attitude about networking is the first step. It’s realizing that with a big enough network, there are a lot of people who you might one day have the chance to help.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

A relationship leveraging pioneer, Bob Burg ( has shared the stage with such luminaries as Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Brian Tracy, and Harvey Mackay at public and corporate events on the topics, “How to Cultivate a Network of Endless Referrals,” “Painless Prospecting,” and “Winning Without Intimidation: The Art of Positive Persuasion.” He is author of numerous best-selling books, including the underground business classic ENDLESS REFERRALS: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales, which has sold over 160,000 copies. You can download a free 22-page special report, “Referrals Fun & Simple,” and subscribe to Bob’s weekly “Endless Referrals Video Brief” by visiting