Over the past 20 years, Keith Ferrazzi, the entrepreneur and bestselling author, has helped CEOs transform their companies to better prepare for the future of work. He learned early on from his dad, an unemployed steelworker, that he wanted to change the way the world works. One of the first points he learned: get to work early. His philosophy is grounded in his work ethic that his father helped shape when Ferrazzi worked as a caddy. His dad told him to get to the golf course early. Initially, the teenager didn’t understand why. After a while, he would arrive before the golfers, spending time studying the courses, the pin placement, the cut of the grass. As he journeyed out with golfers on any given day, he could advise the golfer with invaluable information about which club to use.
One day, he caddied for a wealthy businesswoman. He kept his head down, afraid to talk to her. After that first round, she requested that he join her again. Over the next few rounds, she offered him advice and introduced him to her friends, including one who urged him to get involved in debating. In high school, Ferrazzi became a skilled debater, leading him to Yale University.
Ferrazzi’s other guiding philosophy draws off his conversations with this wealthy woman: Be as generous as you can because, in the end, the universe will repay you. Though Ferrazzi describes himself as an introvert, he never shied away from asking someone a question or for advice. When he got help from his friend’s dad who talked to him about life as an attorney, he followed up with a thank you note and bought the books recommended to him. In the thank you note, he told his friend’s dad how he began following through on his suggestions.
Showing vulnerability is another life lesson Ferrazzi loves to share. Don’t be afraid to share with someone your struggles, he says. Perhaps it’s easier to talk about the struggles you’ve overcome, but once you do that, you open the door to the relationship. You move beyond a transactional relationship to build one where caring is at the center. “Empathy is the bridge that goes from a transactional relationship to a caring relationship,” Ferrazzi advises. “And there’s this gate and this golden key that opens to this bridge of empathy and it’s called vulnerability. You’ve got to be vulnerable and authentic in order to cross that empathy bridge to be vulnerable.”
To become more vulnerable, you must overcome your fears of meeting people and building relationships. Ferrazzi says you’ve got to practice becoming more confident and competent. Create an “accountability team” or what Ferrazzi calls “Co-Elevation Team ” that is a group of people who commit to collaborate and go higher together. Ferrazzi put this concept into practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many feared what the future would bring, Ferrazzi saw it as an opportunity. He looked forward, knowing that people wanted to know what would happen next. “When there’s an inflection point … try to listen for opportunities to be of service, then bust your butt disproportionally and you will be disproportionately rewarded.”
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