Get out of Yourselves

“Would you want five minutes to talk to me?” asked author and consultant Keith Ferrazzi.

Ferrazzi, named one of the most “connected” individuals by Forbes and Inc. magazines, drew enough of an audience to fill up the Hall of Flags on Penn’s campus on Oct. 14. So it seemed natural that a majority of people raised their hands in response.

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During his Authors@Wharton appearance on Penn’s campus, author and consultant Keith Ferrazzi spoke about his book Never Eat Alone and more.

“You had that chance earlier, but you didn’t,” Ferrazzi joked. “Evan [a Penn student] did and started with generosity. He said, ‘I believe in your methodology and would like to be an ambassador to your teaching and services.’”

Ferrazzi added that he had invited Evan to dinner following the talk due to their positive interaction.

Later in his talk, Ferrazzi instructed each audience member to discuss with the people next to them the formative events that have happened in our lives. This simple premise led to meaningful conversations with complete strangers, and, for me, to an exchange of contact information with someone I never even considered talking to when I sat down.

The point was driven home: Opportunities to form real relationships are everywhere; you just need to take a few risks.

Unflinchingly, Ferrazzi stated, “I don’t care what your goals and dreams are, people are crucial to it.”

He asserted that he was not referring to the false, fleeting types of relationships that networking tends to be accused of creating, but real, authentic relationships filled with generosity and purposefulness.

As someone who has always secretly despised disingenuous interactions between people, whether between salesperson and consumer, boss and employee, or even stranger to stranger, I perked up. I have never been one for small talk or “speed dating” events because I feel they are fake. Sure, there are people everywhere with whom to strike up a conversation or exchange business cards, but are these the types of connections I want?

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Did you take advantage of the opportunity to have five minutes with Keith Ferrazzi?

Ferrazzi is lauded for having connections with “over 5,000 who will answer the phone when I call,” as he writes in his book Never Eat Alone, but I had mistakenly categorized him as a superficial, quantity-over-quality-type “friend.”

Instead, what Ferrazzi emphatically repeated was the importance of serving others and building familial bonds, to “create your own nepotism.” No matter what individualistic cultures like ours claim, you can’t and will not make it on your own. He said that the late Deloitte CEO Pat Locanto was “like a father” to him. Ferrazzi met Locanto at an intern event. Ferrazzi, an oblivious intern of Deloitte at the time, did not recognize Locanto and asked the man who he was. Ferrazzi saved the conversation by bonding over their shared Italian heritage. Ferrazzi became an employee of Deloitte under the condition that he and Locanto regularly had dinner.

At the end of his talk, Ferrazzi told us: “Stop thinking you’re going to do everything yourself because you aren’t going to do anything yourself.”

He recommended instead that we prioritize the people in our lives and “systematically manage” them. Approach everyone, but particularly spend time on people who are most important to us, with generosity, intimacy, candor and accountability. He promised that if we did, the rest would take care of itself.

Editor’s note: Watch a live recording of Keith Ferrazi speaking at Penn in October, which was part of the Authors@Wharton lecture series sponsored by the Wharton Leadership Program

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