Putting Out the Word

About a year ago, my mother decided to re-do the guest bedroom in her home. Before starting out on the project, she outlined her project to several of her friends, not asking for a single thing beyond advice. The end result? One friend gave her a crib. Another friend gave her a children’s bed. Another friend gave some paint to help refinish the room.

A few months ago, I needed some small cloth drawstring bags for a small project. Instead of just heading to Hobby Lobby, I told several people that I know about the project and mentioned that my next step was to get the drawstring cloth bags. Within a week, I had more such bags than I needed.

These two stories have an obvious connection in common. By exerting a bit of patience on projects and talking to others about those projects, we found success without having to ask for it.

Why did this happen? There are several factors at work.

First, in neither case did we ask for anything but advice. The items we received from people weren’t as a result of a specific request or out of greed. They were delivered out of goodwill.

Second, most people want to help others, particularly if it’s convenient. When a friend tells you a story that’s easily solved by a simple action, most people will respond by fulfilling that simple action. They won’t go to extraordinary lengths to make it happen (at least not normally), but if there’s something a friend can conveniently do to help you, they often will. Plus, they’ll feel great about being able to help.

Third, even if a friend can’t help materially, they’ll often help with good advice. Your friends will see your situation from a different angle than you do. They might know of opportunities, techniques, or other such information that can transform your project.

Fourth, the person actually working on the project showed patience. Instead of just throwing money at the problem and rushing around to complete it – something many of us do in the rapid-fire modern world – patience was exerted. They sat back, asked around, and found a better solution.

Fifth, such value exchanges strengthen friendships on both sides. Not only does the giver feel good about being able to help a friend, the receiver feels good as well because of the generosity of their friend. It’s the type of value exchange in which both sides win.

To put it simply, it’s well worth putting the word out in your social network if you’re working on a project of any kind. Simply tell your friends about the things you’re doing and seek their input. Time and time again, they’ll be happy to give their input, whether you choose to use it or not, and quite often they’ll provide someting of great value to you.

Of course, the reciprocal is true – when your friends ask you for advice and you can easily help them, you should provide the same help. If you have useful advice or information, provide it. If you have an item that could easily solve their problem (and you have little need for it), give it.

After all, in the end, what is a friendship beyond a long series of value exchanges? We are constantly doing things for our friends that lift them and our friends constantly do things for us that lift us.

The real lesson here is the value of patience. The utilization of one’s social network is just one piece of the puzzle. Without patience, both stories would have ended with a trip to the store, less money in hand, and a shallower connection with the people in one’s social circle.

If there’s a project you’re working on that’s not incredibly urgent, be patient. Put out the word about your project. Gather input. You might be surprised at the things you discover and the value you find.