Keating Norris and I both love connecting with people. For us, there is a genuine magic in being present while another person shares something with you, be it a story or the details of a dream they have for a non-profit. We met because he became a fan of what I am doing with this project, of the idea that I am going to meet 100 people with no agenda, just to meet them. To people who love meeting others, it's an incredibly freeing idea. It's flattering and humbling to sit across from someone who admires what you do.
Yes, Keating Norris and I both love connecting with people, but we do not feel the same as the other about networking events.
I knew I would meet with someone who would genuinely love networking over this time. I even looked forward to it because I hate networking events so much, and I want a different perspective, something to challenge my preconceptions. Where I see the average networking event as largely false, a quick blitz for the sharks of sales to swoop in and get their required number of introduction in to drive the cycle forward, Keating sees a room of people to meet. It's exciting to him. He's not naive. Years of working through these events have made him well aware that there is a plastic sheen to some people, he just doesn't worry about it. Some of this is the luxury of having a different type of business model and sales cycle, but meeting him will quickly show you that most of it comes from a true love of people, and a desire to meet them when and wherever he can.
It's not an issue of optimism or pessimism. It's an issue of perspective. I see a pain, he sees an opportunity. We are both realistic that we have different objectives when we are at those events. At one point, I even mention that I might feel differently if I had been in a different business when I was doing most of my networking. There is no judgement on either side, we just see things a bit differently. At one point in the conversation I even reflect that I should go out to some networking events now, in my new role, and see how I view it in a different context. Keating smiles.
He smiles a lot. There is a genuine joy and excitement about him. He shares his stories, feelings and thoughts openly. There is no fear of vulnerability in our conversation. This is the best part about these meetings for me, it gives all of us the chance to be completely vulnerable. We are able to pull back the curtain and reveal parts of ourselves to another person. We trust and in return are trusted. The last time I consistently felt this way in conversations was in the military. Keating was never in the service, but he completely understands the bond.
He worked for a non-profit in Los Angeles right out of school, dealing with all kinds of hardship, poverty and drug addiction. He saw some of the rougher parts of life, firsthand, along with the other people at the center. When you share those experiences with others strong bonds are formed. These are the same bonds I formed in the military, overseas with long hours, no breaks and no home to return to besides a room thousands of miles away from our families. We share some stories about those times, about how much closer those relationships were than others we have developed since. Different perspectives, but we have the same understanding. His at a nonprofit, mine in a desert.
Keating uses the word "community" a lot. It's a word I am always a bit skeptical of, a buzz word often used in groups that do not actually live up to the definition. As a writer I believe words have meaning. Community has meaning to Keating. The way he says the word, his eyes light up and he smiles, shows a true believer. His dreams involve community, his day to day life involves community, his passion is surrounded by and permeated by the concept. The more he says it, the more it restores value in the concept for me. It is remarkable how easily our skepticism can be set aside when we meet someone who truly believes that which we believed forever empty.
People see the world differently. I see my meetings, this amazing cast of characters, differently from others. It's easy to let those perspectives pass us by, to accept that we have the monopoly on truth, but when we connect we need to be present, to be open to the perspective of someone else. I've had an opportunity to grasp a bit of the perspective of Keating. It has already shifted mine, it will continue to do so, and mine has probably changed his as well.
In the end, I have but one set of eyes. It can seem limiting until you realize you can always take a moment to ask someone else what they see.
This is how I saw Keating, I wonder how he saw me.
Favorite Dinosaur: Stegosaurus
Why: They are cool. There is something incredible about how they can fight off a T-Rex with that spiked tail