Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fly Fishing Leads To Better Connecting

So during my vacation I got the opportunity to do a lot of fly fishing. I must first say that I am not an experienced fly fisherman. However having done it a few times over the past few years I have grown to love the sport and have gotten myself proficient enough that I can catch more fish than I lose.

There is something quite majestic and magical about the process. It is quite different from what I normally do which is bass fish. There's a completely different technique, approach and attitude that comes with fly fishing. Aside from the actual process of catching fish I find that sitting in a river and listening to the natural beat of the pulsating water actually has to be one of the most relaxing things I have ever done.

While standing in a stream in Colorado last week soaking in the incredible scenery, sounds and rhythm of a perfect mountain day something happened. I began to realize how similar the technique and approach I was taking to casting my fly out into the oncoming stream was to actually connecting with someone new. The analogous processes struck me as so incredibly similar, I just had to share.

To fly fish well you have to be willing to put yourself out there in the river with the fish. The water is often rough, cold and you constantly have to pay attention to your footing otherwise you might lose your balance and go for a rather unpleasant swim. The same rules apply when looking to make new connections. You have to be aware of your environment and be willing to put yourself in the position to make the right connections. Similar to fishing I think connecting requires a good bit of balance as well; balance in understanding who you are and what it takes to encourage people to want to get to know you.

Not only do you have to be out in the water but you have to gracefully move upstream. You have to navigate the oncoming water and river slick rocks to constantly move yourself forward to new spots to cast your line. Bad fisherman are often too aggressive as they move upstream. They splash, make noise, walk heavy and ultimately scare the fish off. Similarly to connecting I think one needs to constantly be willing to step forward and be open enough to look for new people to connect with whenever or wherever they may be. Whether it be at Starbucks, your son's soccer game, church, the neighborhood BBQ or the chamber luncheon. And of course like with fishing you can't walk up to a complete strange with an attitude of aggressiveness or arrogance lest they will swim away right before your very eyes.

Fly fishing is a graceful sport that requires the right preparation and equipment before you step foot into the river. A fly fisherman has to have a wide variety of flies to offer the potential fish because often times the fisherman won't know what might attract the fish until he or she is already in the thick of the river. That takes planning, preparation and a keen sense of awareness of what is working and what is not. Just like with connecting with someone new. You need to be prepared to engage people in a manner that makes them want to hear more of what you have to say. You have to have know what attracts people and keeps them engaged. You have to know that if something isn't working that you need to try something else. This takes practice and constant refinement but like with fishing it is an art form.

So you have moved up stream and found a good spot. You have the right fly on the end of your line. You have the right technique and presentation to perfectly lay that fly just upstream and you watch as it peacefully floats on of the bubbly surface. THEN WHAM - a fish hits! This is when the adrenaline starts pumping and in that split second you have to react and hook the fish. Fly fishing is such that the line where the fly is attached is very delicate. Be too aggressive in setting the hook and you will pull the fly out of the fish's mouth or worse...break your line. There is a real finesse to hooking the fish and playing it back to you. You have to be patient and mindful of the fish's pride. Some fish fight harder than others and it takes a certain calmness and fortitude to turn all your focus and attention to the fish and let the situation play out. But if you show the fish the respect it deserves eventually it calms down and you can slowly begin to pull the fish towards you. If done right the results will be so worth it.

Networking, connection or simply engaging people in general is very similar. Once you have their attention it is important to take your time and don't rush things. No one cares what you do, what you sell or if you need a job or not. People will follow their urge to dart upstream when your objectives are your primary focus. You have to put your time, energy, attention and focus on them period! Connecting is a delicate game and rushing to force feed a connection a business card, sales pitch or whatever will result in a broken line of connection every time.

Just like with your fish, you have to let things play out. You have to show your connection the respect he or she deserves. You do that by demonstrating a genuine interest in learning about them and who they are as a person first. You take your time and ask engaging and insightful questions (Ripple Connection Questions) and if done right the results will so be worth it.

The river is flowing and there are lots of fish out there. How many are you preparing to catch?

I have an extra set of waders so come on in the water is perfect!

No comments: