About a year ago, Charles Duhigg took on a new job at The New York Times, after several years of working as a reporter for the business section.
As a senior editor of live journalism, he would be responsible for coordinating conferences — which was great, except for one thing. He hated conferences and found them incredibly awkward.
Duhigg won a Pulitzer prize for explanatory reporting in 2013 and recently published his second book, “Smarter Faster Better,” about the science of productivity.
In a recent episode of “The James Altucher Show” podcast, Duhigg admitted to having struggled with networking, and explained how he stepped up his game.
In the past, when Duhigg attended conferences, he said he would end up talking to the one person he knew and meeting the people they knew.
Today, his M.O. is to speak to four different people in the first 10 minutes of a conference and then go back to the person he liked most and keep talking to them.
The goal that he achieved “was to try and have interesting conversations that were real, but to also try and meet people that I wouldn’t meet otherwise,” he said.
But this strategy didn’t come to him overnight. In fact, it took a good deal of experimentation before he found something at worked.
First, he decided he would find one person and have a 20-minute conversation with them. Unfortunately, he told Altucher, “the problem is that that’s a little weird.”
Next, he tried having multiple conversations in quick succession or only talking to groups: “Basically it made me seem kind of like a schmoozer.”
Finally, he settled on his current strategy. “I’ll be honest,” he told Altucher. “It has made conferences awesome.”
The process by which he settled on this networking technique is a prime example of experimenting to find what works best for you. It’s something he recommends everybody do, no matter what their personal goal is.
The key is to see each experiment as a learning experience, as opposed to a failure. For example, say you tried to fulfil your goal of expanding your social network by going to a bar and talking to five strangers.
Duhigg says that, as long as you stick with the rules of the experiment, you really can’t have a negative experience.
“If I learn something I haven’t learned before, if I meet someone that I wouldn’t have met before, and let’s say I never talk to them again and it’s an awkward conversation, is that actually such a bad thing? That actually sounds kind of interesting.”
Ultimately, it’s about the way you frame your own behaviours. Are you getting discouraged by failure — or are you excited to learn and grow? Take the latter path, and you’ll be more likely to find the motivation to achieve your goals.