When you think of the classic TV hit Saved by the Bell and the word “network,” you’re likely to think of television networks. I’m going to tell you a quick story about how the show reminded me of the depth and power of one’s network.
On a recent trip to LA, I caught up with a friend who also happened to be in town. Her boyfriend invited us to his father’s home, as it was only a couple blocks away. We arrived to meet an outgoing man in his late 70s wearing a “Bayside Tigers” sweatshirt. I loved it and asked where I could get one.
As I toured his home and saw photos of him and past presidents, I realized he was someone of note, but had no idea who. I then passed by a framed logo for “Peter Engel Productions,” and it clicked.
I proclaimed, “Peter, are you Peter Engel, as in the producer, co-creator and writer for Saved by the Bell?” He chuckled and said yes, and the majority of the remainder of our conversation revolved around my asking for dirt about a show I grew up watching.
Why am I telling you this? Because it reminded me that your network is so much deeper and more powerful than you often realize. The benefits you gain from your network doesn’t always have to be direct or tangible. There was no obvious gain from meeting Peter Engel or learning behind-the-scenes secrets (except that it was thrilling as a fan of his work).
I never would have imagined I’d meet Peter Engel, or anyone from this childhood classic, for that matter. I think that’s because it’s so easy for us to limit our expectations on the powerful and far reach of our own networks.
We’re all familiar with the old concept of there being only six degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the planet. This theory has been studied by Facebook scientists and the University of Milan to deduce that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world is actually 4.74. Stop and think about how powerful that is.
When your company wants to meet the purchasing director of XYZ Corp., you’re seeking an endorsement from your favorite actor, or you need an invitation to that exclusive conference, don’t count it out. You’re only 4.74 people away from a connection.
Since it’s improper to tap your contacts for help if you’ve not kept up with them and/or are always on the taking end of the relationship, take some time to cultivate your network now. Consider investing in it by starting with any of these the small tips:
1. Send an email each day to someone asking about the important things going on in their life, or send a relevant article.
2. Make valuable introductions connecting members of your network.
3. Send well wishes on milestone occasions such as birthdays, work anniversaries, births, marriages or when their company has a big sale, merges or goes public.
4. Call one person each day and simply ask how you can help them reach their goals.
5. Add one breakfast/lunch/after-hours drink meeting to your schedule each week and invite contacts with whom you’ve not connected in a while.
This attitude of paying it forward, underpinned with the knowledge that there is so much untapped power within your network, will continue to propel you (and your contacts) to the next level (however you define that).
Now get out your Zach Morris phone and start calling!
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This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.