Networking Lessons at a Young Age

I drove through Tichigan — Tichigan, Wisconsin that is.

That is a city or town just south of Muskego, WI (where I went to high school). Both are western suburbs of Milwaukee.

Tichigan, however, has a population of less than 1,000 people I believe. It’s sandwiched in the middle of Muskego, Waterford, and Wind Lake.

I saw the sign when I was driving through and it reminded me of the Tichigan basketball rec league that I was part of in middle school. Ultimately, that were a bunch of Waterford people that were part of the team there.

Looking back, I tried out for the basketball team my freshman year of high school and I didn’t make it. Kind of reflecting upon that, leading up to 9th grade, I did play in a summer league with other Muskego people.

But honestly, that was the first time that I played with those people. They probably had played with each other for years. By that point in time, I’m sure that the coaches also knew the players and had for years.

I was at a distinct disadvantage.

Nobody knew me.

Nobody knew who I was.

And without a doubt, nobody really knew who I was on the basketball court.

I was just realizing now in hindsight, almost years later, networking was SO important at that time.

It’s a lot different when a coach can say, “Alright, I’ve seen you play, show me again,” compared to someone else where they say, “Okay, let’s see what you can do.”

There’s less leeway on the second one; there is less room for error.

It’s a lot different when you have to prove yourself after others already have.

I thought about that with the only high school sport that I actually did play then also: tennis.

I loved tennis and I still do. I was good but not great — but maybe could have been.

During my four years at high school, I was part of the winter training that we did. We played at Moorland Tennis Center and it was great to be with the team.

Beyond that, I was there on Tuesday nights with the team and then also on Friday nights for competitive play.

It was a great experience and I got to know all the members of the high school team and staff and as well as the people at Moorland Tennis Center.

I was also able to connect with players at other schools in the Milwaukee area.

So, the first time that Moorland Tennis Center had a player of the month, it was me!

I was honored and I still am.

What’s crazy about it is that I wasn’t the best player and nor was the player who was playing tennis the most. I was simply the person who knew everyone. When the decision makers had to decide who the player of the month would be, it was me!

Here’s the key takeaway

Talk to people and build relationships with people no matter what your situation is.

You don’t know who is around you and you don’t know who those people know that you need to know.

In the same way, you might not yet be aware of who you know that other people also need to have relationships with.

“At the end of the day, all organizations are webs of relationships, that’s all they are.” — Michael Lindsey

I think it’s incredibly important to recognize the value of relationships and to spend time investing in them before they’re important. It’s rewarding and most important to invest in the relationship for the relationship itself — not what the relationship could bring you.

Thinking back to high school and middle school, I knew who the people who I would be going to school with were going to be. But, I did not take the time or invest the energy into relationships with many of them. I wonder how things would have been different for my high school experience had I invested in those relationships more fully.

As the old adage goes,

“You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

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