By Alyce Blum
About three weeks I was on my yoga mat at 6:30 am (yes, you read that correctly). I’m not great at a lot of physical stuff, but yoga is my jam. I’m particularly drawn to the studio where I practice (Kindness Yoga) and a few of the incredible teachers that make classes at 6:30AM an exciting time rather than one of dread.
On this particular day the teacher started the class by sharing her new yoga mat with us and the design on it. On her mat was the picture of a wolf made up of all sorts of positive words and across the bottom of her mat it read, “Let the Good Wolf In.” I had no idea what this meant, but thankfully she explained that the inspiration behind her mat was from a Cherokee story about two wolves, and it serves as an excellent parable. It goes something like this:
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.”
Ah, I love this story! What a simple, yet extremely powerful mirror for us all to consider when it comes to our personal and professional lives. Which wolf are we feeding on a daily, hourly or even moment-to-moment basis and how does that affect how people perceive us and how we perceive others?
I’ve come to realize that for many of us our bad wolves tend to come alive when we start to think about networking. Whether you’re an avid networker or someone that’s just starting out on a networking journey, strategic and confident networking is no easy feat.
For weeks I’ve been thinking about this story and the two wolves inside of me. I realized that my good wolf comes alive when ‘I feed it’ the following: yoga, time with family + friends, strategic planning around who and where I network, mental, physical and emotional breaks and of course lots of grace when it comes to various aspects of growing my business.
My bad wolf really speaks to me when I’m feeding it the following: negative thoughts about myself, my appearance, my success in regards to my business, comparing myself to other entrepreneurs, walking into networking events with a selfish and close-minded attitude, excuses to not follow-up and of course, excuses that limit my ability to deeply connect with others (aka, why would they want to spend time with me, what could I possibly offer/teach them and I’m sure they’d rather connect with someone else than me).
What I mean by this is that something as simple as figuring what to put in the subject line of a follow-up email can ignite our bad wolf rather than our good wolf and feeding our bad wolf only creates blocks for our potential success.
I hear various renditions of the following statement from my clients all the time, “I met with Susan weeks ago and never followed-up. Now, I just look bad and I’m sure she thinks less of me. It’s probably too late to send an email or call and what would I possibly even put in the subject line?” BOOM, enter the bad wolf.
Rather than feeding our good wolf in a networking situation like this, we all tend to default and feed our bad wolves. Perhaps, it’s habit, perhaps it’s uncomfortably comfortable, but whatever it is, it’s not helping us feel our best nor make strong connections. By simply being aware of which wolf we’re feeding we can be at the cause of our decisions rather than at the effect.
What would it look like if someone were to feed their good wolf, even after weeks of not following up with someone? Perhaps, it would go something like this, “I’ve intentionally put off sending a follow-up email, and I can still reach out, make it sincere and if I need help with the subject line I can simply ask a friend or google, ‘best subject lines for networking follow-up.’
Here’s another challenge I hear from clients all the time, “I get so nervous and in my own head before I walk into a networking room, how will I even start a conversation?” Again, we enter the bad wolf. Now, I’m not saying being nervous isn’t normal or totally ok, because it is, but when we feed our fears aka our bad wolf, we tend to spiral into a negative place and it can be pretty challenging to come out of it.
One suggestion I share with my clients when they express fear or doubt about walking into a room full of strangers or not knowing how to start a conversation is something I learned from my friend, Tristan Powers. As she’s entering a networking event, she’ll stop at the door she’s about to walk through, take a deep breath and say to herself, “I belong in that room and so does everyone else.” I absolutely love the intentionality behind this action and the mindset it helps create for her. Not to mention that it’s a 100% positive phrase that embodies my networking mantra, “How can I help others and ensure that my needs are also being met?”
Taking a few seconds to calm your mind and feed your good wolf before walking into a networking event can result in endless opportunities for you and for those around you. Feeding our good wolves while we network doesn’t need to be complicated or overly action oriented. I believe it all starts with being intentional about our thoughts, feelings and of course, our actions.
Which wolf are you feeding when it comes to reaching for new goals, connecting with others and with yourself? We all have the ability to feed both our good and our evil wolves, but it’s up to us to stop, breath, consider and then act on which wolf we feed and thus what actions we take and what results we experience.
How do you feed your good wolf when it comes time to network and how do you manage your bad wolf in times of stress and overwhelm? If you would like to share your thoughts, I would love to hear them. You can visit my website and share your ideas by clicking here.
Alyce Blum of Alyce Blum Coaching & Consulting. Photo courtesy of Ms. Blum.
**Note: This was written prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Given that times have drastically changed and that includes networking, here is a timely and helpful article that provides realistic tips for how to continue building a network virtually.