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How to Be Remarkable

November 6, 2014 — Leave a comment
photo: Deacon Ales, Creative Commons

photo: Deacon Ales, Creative Commons

We love remarkable people. We love watching their lives, admiring their work, and seeing what they are able to do. But if you’re like me, every once in awhile you see someone remarkable and feel yourself getting a little smaller.

You think, “I’ll never be like them.”

One of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met is Bob Goff.

If you’ve ever read Love Does or heard Bob speak, you know what I mean. You can’t help but walk away from Bob thinking to yourself, “this man is incredible.” You feel lighter and freer and full of whimsy. You feel enthusiastic and happy and fully of love because, well, that’s just how Bob is!

You might even think to yourself, “I want to be just like Bob Goff!”

But here’s the thing: You’ll never be like Bob Goff. Neither will I. And that’s okay. 

For one, I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t live in San Diego. I don’t have a wife named Sweet Maria, and I don’t know how to fly an airplane.

But that’s not all that’s working against me.

Bob is one of the most outgoing people I’ve ever seen, and I’m not that way. I am an introvert, someone who would rather hang back than be the center of attention. I don’t know if I could spend a straight hour hugging strangers, which is something I’ve seen him do on numerous occasions.

I am not cut out of the same cloth as Bob, and while it might be tempting to feel discouraged by this realization, I don’t.

You know why?

Because Bob already exists. The world doesn’t need a thousand Bobs, or even two Bobs. The world needs each of us individually for what we have and what we bring to the table.

In fact, that’s the best thing about Bob Goff. He’s not anybody else.

He’s not trying to be someone or act like someone else. His enthusiasm, his love, and his love of balloons isn’t an act. He’s just being Bob, and that’s what makes him so special.

So what if the same was true for us. What if we were just us: if I was just Justin, and you were just you?

What could the world look like if we learned who we are, what makes us special and unique, and what our calling is on earth?

I’m not sure, but I know I want to find out.

God made us. We are His masterpiece, His greatest work of art, and He made us all differently. He made Bob one way, and me another way, and you another way too. And when we learn who we are and learn to be that person is when we’re our most incredible, when we’re capable of more than we can imagine.

photo: Joris Louwes, Creative Commons

photo: Joris Louwes, Creative Commons

“I’m just not a people person.” Have you ever heard someone say that?

Introverts usually say it, a quick and easy excuse out of any situation involving small talk. Trust me. If anyone can understand this, I can. I am a huge introvert and sometimes (like Jerry Seinfeld says) I feel like “people are the worst!”

And yet I would argue all of us (yes, all of us) are people people.

You might not be outgoing or an extrovert, and that’s perfectly okay. But anyone looking to live a meaningful life glorifying to Christ is a people person, whether they feel like it or not.

Here’s why:

1. Jesus was a people person.

Jesus’ life and ministry are characterized by His love of people. He had a core group of people He traveled and ministered with, had close friends, and was constantly surrounding Himself with all kinds of people. If we want to become more like Jesus, we need to learn how to love people, how to be around them, and how to care for them.

The good news for all the introverts out there is this: Jesus took time to Himself. There are many times throughout scripture when Jesus went off to be by Himself, to pray to God. So it’s perfectly okay for you to do this too.

Enjoying time alone or recharging that way is not the same as disliking people. They’re not mutually exclusive.

2. Without people, life is meaningless.

Although difficult to think about, considering the end of our lives is a great way for us to determine what’s important while we’re still living.

Have you ever heard someone on their deathbed talk about how they wish they would have worked more? No. Most people, at the end of their lives, lament that they didn’t spend more time with the people they love, and it’s because people are what make our lives meaningful.

There is no achievement, belonging, or social status that can replace having loved ones in your life. The rest falls short without them.

3. You need people to survive.

We need each other, plain and simple. When God created the earth, He declared all of His creations to be good, minus one detail: It was not good for man to be alone.

We were made to need each other. The expression of this looks different for different personality types and temperaments, but it is no less true for an introvert than it is for an extrovert.

We need to be loved, cared for, and supported through life’s difficulties. No man is an island.

 

When we’re frustrated by the people around us, or overwhelmed, or when we haven’t had enough time alone, it’s easy to declare that we’re not a people person. But we really are, we were made to be.

photo: Creative Commons, Tom Edgington

photo: Creative Commons, Tom Edgington

I meet talented, smart, interesting people all the time who admit they’re nervous to connect with others. These people avoid networking events and chances to “mingle” before and after church because the idea of standing around making small talk sounds petrifying to them.

These are people of all ages, backgrounds and with all different experiences, but the complaints are still the same.

“I’m shy.”

“I’m not good with people.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m an introvert.”

I don’t want to ignore the fact that differences in temperament and personality do exist (a very intriguing and well-researched book about the introvert/extrovert dilemma is called Quiet by Susan Cain).

It’s just that I don’t think being an introvert, or even being shy, means you don’t have what it takes to connect in a meaningful way with others.

I’m an introvert, and connecting with others is one of the skills that, by the grace of God, I’ve been able to develop over the years. And, although I sound like a broken record, connecting with others is a skill you must master if you want to live up to your full potential in life and ministry.

Why do so many competent, capable people have a hard time connecting?

What makes them think they’re “not good with people”?

I think there are many reasons, but they all stem from the same place — insecurity.

If you are not secure in your identity in Christ — if you’re waiting for others to tell you are loved and valuable — connecting will always be scary (and you won’t ever be likable). Because no matter how many skills you learn to connect with others, no matter how much you practice, nothing can make up for the peace and security that comes when you know you don’t have to perform for others.

You already matter.

The worst part about insecurity is it tends to be a self-fufilling prophecy. You feel insecure, so you try to perform. When you perform, you’re not authentic. When you’re not authentic, people tend to notice. When they notice, they either criticize or disconnect.

And when they criticize or disconnect, it seems to reaffirm what you were worried about all along… that you “aren’t good with people.”

So what do you do to overcome your insecurity?

I don’t know that we ever overcome our insecurity 100% during our lifetime, but I think we can make really good progress if we’re willing to submit our lives to God and believe the truth of what He says about us.

The first place to start is recognizing the source.

To discover the source of your insecurity, ask yourself this: What would be the worst thing another person could think or say about you? If I were going to start a rumor about you, or talk about you behind your back, what would be the worst thing I could say?

That you aren’t smart?

You aren’t nice?

You aren’t funny?

Chances are, the way you answer that question is getting to the root of your insecurity. At that root is (usually) a lie you believe about yourself. Some people are insecure about the way they look (they’ve believed the lie they are ugly), others are insecure about their intelligence (they’ve believed the lie they aren’t smart), and others are insecure that they aren’t interesting or important (they’ve believed the lie they don’t matter).

What is your biggest insecurity? How is it holding you back?

Once you’ve identified the source of your insecurity, you can fight it with truth. John 8:32 says the TRUTH shall set you free.

Do you know the TRUTH of what God says about you?

If not, now would be a good time to get to work reading scripture. Look for verses that remind you the value you have in Christ. Commit these verses to memory, and use them to replace the lies you’ve believed about yourself.

Then, get to work connecting to others. Nothing will be more satisfying.

photo: Creative Commons, Cydcor Offices

photo: Creative Commons, Cydcor Offices

There are a lot of myths out there about what makes a person good at connecting. And often these myths keep talented people from connecting because they don’t think they have “what it takes” to be a great connector.

I shared about this recently when I wrote about how introverts can be great connectors.

I’ll say what I said in that post, again. Connecting is one of the most valuable things you can learn in business and ministry, and connectors aren’t born as much as they are made.

You can learn the skills of connecting, but only if you abandon these four myths that are keeping you from meeting the right people.

Good talkers are the best networkers.

It is actually the best listeners that make the best connectors.

People who ask great questions, and truly enjoy getting to know other people, are the ones who leave the most lasting impressions on those they meet. [tweet that]

So if you aren’t a big talker, that might actually work to your advantage.

Regardless who you are, work on asking good questions and listening. When the people you meet feel known and valued, they will become your biggest cheerleaders and advocates.

When a job comes open, they will think of you. When you need a favor, the doors will be opened. When you are without resources, they will equip you.

You aren’t nice in order to get something in return. This is just a simple example of reaping what you sow.

You have to make yourself seem important

Actually, the most sincere people are the best networkers. It’s true. Think of it this way. The word connection literally means to join two things together. You are one of those things. So, if you don’t act like yourself, no genuine connection was actually made. One of the pieces in the connection was missing.

The next time you meet someone, rather than focusing on impressing them, what if you focused on being yourself?

What if you took the pressure off?

What if, instead of making yourself seem important, you made other people feel important? [tweet that]

People are born networkers.

Actually, people learn to be networkers. People who seem like great “natural” networkers probably have two things in common. First, they probably understand the tremendous positive impact networking can have on your personal and work life. So, in this sense they feel strongly motivated to get good at it.

And secondly, they’ve probably been trying and failing for a long time.

Seriously. The way you get good at networking is the same way you get good at anything. You try. You fail. You let your failures inform you. Then, you get up and do it all over again.

If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never get good at networking.

Can’t network unless you have something valuable to offer.

Actually, this is probably true. But you might have more value than you think.

One of the most valuable things you can do in networking is connect people to other people. This is where great networking skills really start to come in handy. The more connections you make, the more value you have to offer. And the more closely you listen when you ask good questions, the more you’ll know who you should connect to whom.

Also, sometimes the most valuable thing you can offer another person is really simple. When I’m done talking with someone new, I like to ask them this simple question: What do you need right now?

Sometimes, they need something I don’t have to give them.

But most of the time they need things like prayer, encouragement, a friend, a hug — all things I can afford to give freely.

So what are you waiting for? Why haven’t you gotten started connecting?

photo: Creative Commons, Dell Inc.

It’s a myth that introverts can’t be good at networking. Being an introvert, I can understand how networking might feel impossible for those who prefer to spend time alone, rather than in large crowds or at parties. But I also believe networking is a skill. And, like any other skill, it can be taught to any person, regardless of personality type or temperament.

I also feel very strongly that this skill must be developed if you’re going to realize your full God-given potential in your career and otherwise.

Here are five easy steps you can take to grow this skill. I hope they’ll be helpful for all, but I’m especially thinking of introverts as I write.

1. Show up

The first step to networking is to go where the people are. This can be downright terrifying if you’re an introvert, and if you haven’t practiced it much, but it’s the first step to becoming good at networking. You have to go to the conference, the party, the event — no matter how tempting it might seem to stay home.

It’s easy to get worked up with fear, or anxiety, or just exhaustion before you even leave the house. But chances are you have nothing to worry about.

Chances are you will have fun.

I’m not saying you can never stay home, or that you have to attend every event you’re invited to (I’ll get to that later). I’m just saying you won’t find anyone to connect with if you never leave your house.

2. Smile

This is so simple. But when you show up to the event or party, just smile. You don’t even have to say anything to anyone, or be overkill about it, but just look pleasant. Don’t stand against the back wall, arms crossed, with a scowl on your face. Just look open and approachable.

Research shows this posture (creating a smile with your face) actually changes your brian chemistry, and gives you positive feelings about people and circumstances, and makes you more open to whatever might happen.

As a happy benefit, there’s a good chance you won’t have to start a conversation with anyone. The conversation will likely come to you.

3. Start the conversation

Just stick out your hand and say, “Hi, my name is Justin. What’s yours?” It might seem terrifying, but don’t spend too much time thinking what happens after you ask that person’s name. Just ask their name, and see where the conversation goes.

4. Assume you’re not the only one

Assume you’re not the only one who is a little nervous to be there. Assume you’re not the only one who can’t think of what to say, or who stumbles in conversation. Assume you’re not the only one who is an introvert. Assuming this will make you more likely to make the first move.

What if that person across the room was as nervous as you were? What would you say to them?

Chances are you would smile reassuringly, reach out your hand, and say hello.

5. Introduce people

As an introvert it is much easier to introduce other people to each other than it is to be the sole owner of every relationship you carry.

Sometimes, when I introduce two people, I do so knowing full well that their friendship will become deeper or more substantial than my relationship with either or both of those people. I’m totally comfortable with that.

True networking isn’t about meeting people, its about connecting them.

6. Create space to recharge

If you’re a true blue introvert (like I am) it doesn’t matter how “good” you get at networking, it will still feel like work to you. You’ll still need to make space before and after events to recoup and recharge.

After a big event, I always try to take at least one day where I have extra space and quiet before I jump back into working and being around people. After a smaller event, I might only ned a few ours.

The same goes before events. I just like to give myself enough time to feel rested and prepared.

So be strategic about the events you attend. You don’t have to be at every single one. Know yourself well enough to know when you truly need rest, and allow yourself to rest. But push yourself out of your normal routine and what is comfortable to you to become better at networking.

You won’t regret it.

Are you an introvert or extrovert? What tips do you have for becoming a better connector?