The Quickest Way to a Better Career

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I hate meeting people. I would prefer to be holed up in my apartment, lovingly arranged to every last detail purely to make me comfortable, than to present myself to the world. It’s not that I actually dislike people, but the whole process. The getting ready, the logistics, scheduling a time, finding a place – nevermind if you can’t meet me in my preferred five block radius. If it’s raining outside, I will cancel. If I have a blemish on my face, I will cancel. If you want to meet for no reason, I will cancel.

Meeting people is like writing is like exercise. All take convincing. You have to talk yourself into it, hype yourself up. Then things go fine. Great even. Sometimes amazing.

Last week, I was in New York for a media tour. That’s where you pack twelve meetings in two days and meet with anyone – editors, reporters, interns – who will listen. And oh, holy crap, how I loved it.

Sure, we could have saved a couple thousand in expenses, and done the same thing over email, or the phone, over web-ex or even text. But the power of face-to-face, to see these people in person, to meet and speak… to have a conversation.  Well, if I could do media tours full-time, I would (except, with my own bed at night).

Technology is supposed to make it easier for us to connect, but it actually makes it worse to have a conversation. That’s the argument of Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and author, most recently, of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

“We are tempted to think that our little ‘sips’ of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t,” Turkle argues. “Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.”

Nowhere is this more important than if you’re trying to do something. Build a company. Launch your career. Get a raise. Do anything but settle. Meeting people is the quickest way to success.  I used to say when you put yourself out there, the universe rises to meet you, but really it’s your network.

So if meeting people is like fruit, technology is like candy. And the longer we stay in front of our computers, the more sluggish we feel. The anxiety kicks in. So do the excuses. Then it’s just easier to stay home, send an email, and do absolutely nothing.

We convince ourselves that working works. But it doesn’t. So get up. Talk to someone. Have a conversation. Tell me how it goes. Tell me how things start happening for you. It is single-handedly the best thing you can do for your career, company, life.

(Technology gives us shortcuts. This isn’t one of them.)