It's okay to cheat every once in a while (on your couch, that is)
The older I've gotten (#thisis30) the more I've come to appreciate staying home at night, camping out on my couch with my two boyfriends (Netflix + Charlie) and maybe playing a rousing game of Yahtzee on my phone. I know, you're super jealous. I'm certainly not alone in this affliction, but for someone whose career is centered around meeting people and building connections, that can be a bit of a deterrent to my success.
Back when I first started at General Assembly, I was either throwing an event or attending one nearly every night of the week. Networking and being "seen" in the Silicon Beach community was inherent to my day-to-day, so I never had to make much of an effort to meet new people. Now that I primarily work from home, I actually have to leave my house after my workday, which, let me tell you, takes a lot more effort than simply not going home right away.
Anyone who knows me at all can vouch for the fact that I am not an introvert, but I'll be damned if working from home, having a boyfriend (who I actually enjoy spending time with), and having endless TV series to "catch up on" (I'm looking at you, "The West Wing") doesn't make my introverted tendencies flair up. Once I'm out and about, I'm almost always happy I went, but it's getting myself out the door when most people are coming home from work that can be a major challenge.
This week was an exercise in why I need to get the hell over the "I'm already home, I'll just not go/cancel" hump.
Exhibit A: I've been emailing back and forth and exchanging social media "hellos" with an incredible PR maven in LA, and she finally cornered me into grabbing a drink with her this week. Had I not accidentally (honestly) had to cancel on our first scheduled drinks, I would have definitely pulled the "I just flew back from Jamaica and boy are my arms tired" excuse when Tuesday happy hour rolled around and my couch was giving me that sexy "don't leave" look it tends to give. So, I suited up and drove over to the Westside to put in my hour of IRL connection and head home.
One hour turned into three, and by the end of it I had spent the better part of my evening being completely engaged in fantastic conversation, with someone I fully intend to collaborate with in the very near future. I left feeling energized and excited, and most importantly very thankful that I didn't let the couch black hole suck me in.
Exhibit B: This week the third annual Silicon Beach Fest took place in Marina Del Rey, and due to the nature of my "elbow-rubbing" position at GA, I was given a free ticket for being a panel sponsor. In theory I should absolutely always be at any major Silicon Beach networking event, but again, my couch you guys! I made this event non-negotiable for myself since literally anyone who does anything in the LA tech/startup scene is typically in attendance. So, I threw on my one pair of "take me serious" heels and took the 405 to the 90 and got off on the Lincoln exit to Marina Del Rey.
Surprise! This is the part where I again tell you how glad I am that I went. Not only did I end up running into pretty much everyone I've partnered with through GA, I also got to finally meet a few people who I just haven't had a chance to cancel on - I mean - set up drinks with yet. On top of that, I was able to spend a few hours catching up with a good friend who always manages to make me feel super positive about life, and who now also protects me from rogue drones (don't trust them, I'm telling you.) I left with a stack of business cards, a few less of my own, and a short but impactful list of people to follow up with come Monday.
Moral of the story: Get off your ass and out of your comfort zone, and be open to human connection. Never underestimate the power of a face to face hangout with someone. Twitter and email are great for establishing the initial connection, but the benefit of sitting next to someone over coffee or a cocktail is that you actually see, hear, and appreciate the human behind the screen. Ideas flow, connections are made, and you never know what might come of it. That's hard to achieve when you're bound by the limitations of 140 characters or relying solely on emojis to share your emotions.
Even if your job doesn't involve the need to network (although I could argue that everyone can benefit from networking), you never know who you might meet out there in this big 'ole world of ours. It could be your next business partner, best friend, or future-ex-girlfriend. Life is about connecting with people, sharing our stories, and finding ways to improve our surroundings. Don't let your desire for solitude keep you from that.
Relax, your couch will be there waiting for you when you get home, promise.