ImagesToday, I delivered a book report to an audience of attorneys, accountants, and other professionals assembled at Smith Barney’s downtown offices. Here’s my take on Never Eat Alone And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi with Tahl Raz.

Author Ferrazzi asks for a shift in philosophy, much like Stephen Covey recommends: move from independence to interdependence. In the stage of independence, we are able to be autonomous, requiring no one’s aid. In independence, our survival depends only on ourselves. But independence is not the ultimate state of maturity and power. That is interdependence, where our ability to thrive beyond survival, to truly blossom – requires levering our connections with others. “Autonomy is a life vest made out of sand,” writes Ferrazzi.

Ferrazzi discusses interesting philosophical adjustments that we must make regarding generosity. The first adjustment: We need to ask for it (moving from independence to interdependence), realizing that others are glad to give us their generosity if only we ask for it. The second adjustment: We need to give it to others. The third adjustment: don’t keep score. If I do something nice for you, you don’t owe me anything. And vice versa.

A personal example: Years ago, local titan Mel Schottenstein (of blessed memory) asked me to donate the services of Young Isaac to the Community Shelter Board. A peer of his, Jules Garel, was standing by and immediately interrupted to ask, “Mel, why should Artie Isaac provide the services of his agency without remuneration?”

Mel replied: “Because Artie knows that what goes around comes around. His generosity will be returned to him many times over.” (In today’s retelling of that story, it seems that the two of them – Mel and Jules – were in cahoots, trying to make me smarter.)

Like many intelligent self help books, such as The E-Myth Revisited or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Never Eat Alone calls for you to clarify your purpose and mission. But Ferrazzi goes on to suggest that these goals be put into writing in a Relationship Action Plan:

• the development of your goals;
• the connection of your goals to the people, places and things that will help you reach your goals; and
• the way to reach out to the people who will help you accomplish your goals

Later in Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi discusses the human emotions that cause us to hesitate before reaching out to others for help. In a chapter called “The Genius of Audacity,” he focuses on fear:

Mustering the audacity to talk with people who don’t know me often simply comes down to balancing the fear I have of embarrassment against the fear of failure and its repercussion…. For me, I either ask or I’m not successful. That fear always overrides my anxiety about rejection or being embarrassed.

To “get more comfortable at being audacious in social situations,” Ferrazzi suggests five steps:

1. “Find a role model.” You know an audacious genius. Get close and learn.
2. “Learn to speak.” Seek training to become a better public speaker.
3. “Get involved.” Find your cause. Make it a hobby you enjoy.
4. “Get therapy.” Some of the most successful people I know have been to a therapist (or coach) at some point in their lives.
5. “Just do it.” Just do it.

For those who are afraid of becoming one of those networking jerks, Ferrazzi offers a chapter called “The Networking Jerk.” He offers six cautions:

1. “Don’t schmooze.” Seek a couple meaningful conversations rather than a lot of pointless interactions.
2. “Don’t rely on the currency of gossip.” Consider the ethics of your speech.
3. “Don’t come to the party empty-handed.” He suggests you offer something for free, such as your thoughts on a blog site. (I liked that.)
4. “Don’t treat those under you poorly.” He makes this point with several anecdotes throughout the book.
5. “Be transparent.” Don’t hide your enthusiasm.
6. “Don’t be too efficient.” Ever receive a holiday card that is signed like an impersonal form letter? Is it a kindness or an insult?

Ferrazzi continues with explanations of how to put your ego in check. For example, when you call someone and receive no response, how do you react? You keep trying, says Ferrazzi, and you “don’t sabotage your efforts by expressing how annoyed you are…. Nor should you apologize for your persistence. Just dive in as if you caught him on the first call. Make it comfortable for everyone.” Ferrazzi is a big believer in staying optimistic and joyous – always moving forward – and, after reading Never Eat Alone, I agree completely. This book offers a welcome attitude adjustment.

Ferrazzi describes how to move through a conference by practicing “deep bumps…an effort to quickly make contact, establish enough of a connection to secure the next meeting, and move on.” At conferences, others will understand your desire to talk and move on quickly; they need to do the same, because they paid as dearly as you did to attend the conference. What about bumping (and moving on) in social situations? In a later chapter, “The Art of Small Talk,” specific language and actions are suggested for concluding a conversation without awkwardness.

No book on networking would be complete without a discussion of Dr. Stanley Milgram’s 1967 research project that yielded the popular concept of the Six Degrees of Separation. In his approach to theory, Ferrazzi encourages us to appreciate weak ties (people we don’t know all that well) as much as we do strong ties (our closest contacts). This is because our closest contacts run in the same circles as we do and are, therefore, less likely to expand our network. It’s the weak ties who have entirely separate networks that can lead us to powerful new connections. It’s an interesting take on the theory and, in my experience, proves true. There’s nothing so delightful as a casual acquaintance that puts 2 and 2 together and introduces me to a great opportunity. Except maybe when I do the same for someone else!

All of us know that good networkers help others in business. But how can we break through? Ferrazzi cites Dale Carnegie: “The only way to get people to do anything is to recognize their importance and thereby make them feel important. Every person’s deepest lifelong desire is to be significant and to be recognized.”

More deeply, Ferrazzi asks Michael Milken how he has been so successful in building a great following in his various pursuits. Milken explains that there are three primary drivers of appreciation: “there are three things in this world that engender deep emotional bonds between people. They are health, wealth, and children.” Ferrazzi continues: “When you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty.” Ferrazzi places these priorities at the base of Abraham Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s debatable, in my opinion – because these issues quickly climb the ladder of needs and wants – but I like Ferrazzi’s perspective.

There’s much more to the book and, surely, to Ferrazzi’s blog. I do recommend the book.

While parts of Never Eat Alone read like a manual for experts, there are surely gems of advice for all of us, even those of us who least want to leave the comfort of our desks, shake hands, and grab elbows (a favorite physical embrace of Ferrazzi’s).

You can do this. If you’d like to discuss relationship planning, please give me a call.