In 1998, I started my own law firm. I subleased office space from a good friend and hung out my shingle. It was probably not the best timing. My kids were 6, 4 and 8 weeks. One day I was walking through the lobby of my building when I ran into my old boss at my former law firm. A chance encounter. He had started his own firm a few years prior and was building an enviable practice.
I mentioned my new venture and we had a nice, but brief, conversation. The next day he called and asked whether I would like to join him on a weekend trip to Colorado. I was playing the slideshow of excuses in my mind when I said “Sure.”
Another person was supposed to join us but cancelled at the last minute. So he and I spent the weekend playing golf, eating at nice restaurants and talking law. I came back with a renewed enthusiasm for my new venture. A week later, he called again.
“How would you like to join my firm?” he asked.
I joined his firm and he and I have been law and/or business partners in one form or another ever since. And it all arose out of that single chance encounter.
Chance encounter. What a perfect phrase. Think about how much of your life has been determined by these chance encounters. Now try to imagine what you may have missed when you failed to recognize the chance in your encounter.
Every single person you meet carries the opportunity to learn something you did not previously know. But you’ll have to follow two simple words of advice to be able to maximize these chances: Shut up!
Contrary to your center of the universe instincts, a new meeting is not all about you. It’s about the role you might be able to play in the lives of others.
And these are not just the happenstance chance encounters. This could be the long term customer.
Here is an example. I have a friend who is a banker. Good guy. I see him frequently at various social functions. And he likes to talk. He talks about his bank, his kids, his golf game, his ranch, his hunting trips, his season tickets, his vacations, his political preferences. About 2 months ago he was bemoaning the loss of a client to another bank. He was confused. “I wish (my customer) would have come to me about his loan. I didn’t even know he was unhappy,” he told me.
Make sure you’re not missing the chance in your encounters