Look up. Way up. Near the top of the picture. Yep, that’s me!

“I find that even small changes sometimes jog you out of a mental rut.”
~ Tom Perrotta

“Why am I here?”

It’s Labor Day weekend 2016 and I’m sitting on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. I’m on my annual nerd-pilgrimage, attending the DragonCon science fiction convention with my buddy Tim.

Imagine being surrounded by thousands upon thousands of science fiction/fantasy/horror/etc fans. All around you are people dressed as their favorite characters or wearing quirky tee-shirts with quotes from movies and television. You might find yourself waiting in line with a Star Fleet officer in front of you and the guy wearing “Han Shot First!” behind. Genre luminaries from literature, television, and the movies tell stories of what it was like to create the masterpieces that transformed how their fans perceive the world. All around people young and old celebrate the culture of the nerd.

This year, though, I’m not feeling the love. For some reason, it’s already Sunday afternoon and I’m feeling cold about the whole thing — as if something’s missing.

I ask myself “Why I go to all the trouble? It’s a lot of travel. Do I dress up? No. Do I get autographs? No. Do I simply love being in crowds of people? No!”

“Why am I here?”

Well, of course, I love watching the amazing or beautiful or horrifying or clever costumes. I enjoy listening to the stars tell their stories and more important to my professional development, how they tell them. Most of all, I get motivated and inspired from conversations with Tim, artist, photographer, philosopher, and chief questioner on my unofficial board of advisors.

And this leads to the questions you should be asking about any group you belong to, especially if you are wondering why you’re there.

  1. Did the event/group change?
    Yeah, for me, DragonCon was bigger, but it still offered all the same opportunities it did before.
    In your networking, perhaps the group stopped offering a particular event. Or maybe the types of people who attend changed. Do your customers or those who connect you to your customers no longer attend? That would be a strong indication that it’s time to start looking for a new venue.
  2. Did you change?
    I still love science fiction. I’m a little older now, so perhaps my tastes have changed, but not by much.
    With respect to your networking, did you stop serving a particular market? Maybe you moved to a new position in the company and the group benefits you once needed no longer motivate you. Maybe the economy shifted and your needs evolved to stay relevant. If the group doesn’t shift with you. It may be time to part ways.
  3. Do you need to adjust your behavior?
    This was my answer. DragonCon was larger. I had been trying to avoid the big crowds, but this meant I was missing out on seeing the best costumes and the stars I knew. It also took from the enjoyment of my philosophical discussions with Tim since the events of the convention acted as the catalysts for conversation.
    Maybe you, too, forgot why you were there in the first place and you need to rededicate yourself to the process. If the group did change, are there new opportunities that might replace or exceed those that you lost in the shuffle?

Once I understood the dilemma, I adjusted my approach. I stopped trying to attend activities every single minute. I went earlier to wait in line and chat with my fellow fans. I not only fulfilled my original needs, but I opened up an entirely new aspect of benefits from my annual trek.

As long as we acknowledge it, not all change it bad.

What do you need to change to reinvigorate your existing networking? Before you abandon all the work you’ve been putting into a group, ask a few questions to see if a minor adjustment is all you need.

Photo by Timothy Wells