“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.”
~ Tom Stoppard

Look around at the people that surround you throughout the day. Imagine them as children. Imagine their laughter, their play, their boisterous energy. Do they still radiate that all-consuming joy? Are they aspiring to great things in their life? Are they excited to make a difference in the world? Or, more likely, do they seem beaten down, tired, staring at the world through lifeless eyes?

What happened that they lost that boundless enthusiasm for life?

If you look a little closer at the adults they’ve become, you might begin to detect a cloud around them — the weight of a thousand responsibilities they now carry on their shoulders, like the clanking of Jacob Marley’s chains from “A Christmas Carol”. The kids need new clothes. The furnace is making strange noises. The project at work is overdue. Each little thing adds to the weight and bows their shoulders.

Truly great networkers are weight lifters. I don’t mean they can bench their body weight. I mean they look for the needs in the people around them and find ways to lift those burdens. For a great networker, knowing that someone is walking a little straighter, laughing a little more, looking forward to each new day — that is the ultimate reward.

So what can we do to start lifting those weights? Here are a seven key actions you can take.

  1. Find them work. Start with the big one first. Whether it’s a contract, a client, or a career they need, if they have cash flow issues, they have a weight sitting right on their chest and they probably can’t breathe. It’s not always easy, but if you can connect them with the opportunity, if you can lift that weight, you give them a breath of fresh air.
  2. Get them resources. Are they having trouble with plumbing or child care or accounting? Whatever it is, can you make a recommendation to connect them with someone who can solve the problem?
  3. Locate their stepping stones. Maybe you can’t connect them directly to work or the resources they need. Ask around your network to see if anyone else has had similar problems in the past and find out how they solved it. An introduction from you might cut their effort in half.
  4. Help their family. Sometimes they don’t need the help personally, but rather they have something going on with a family member that is weighing on their mind. Can you help the kids get into a good school? Do you know of a job for their brother? What about service that might allow their aging parents to stay in their home a little longer?
  5. Give them advice. The modifier on this is: If they ask for it. No one really appreciates unsolicited advice. If they do ask, though, be prepared with whatever you can do to point them in a good direction.
  6. Be their champion. Talk about their successes. Share what they do. Heck, write them a testimonial if you have experienced exactly how amazing they truly are. It’s easier for you to brag about them than it is for them to brag about themselves.
  7. Lend them an ear. Sometimes all they need is a sympathetic ear to listen to their troubles or being a sounding board for the challenges they are currently facing. It’s not about you being a solution to the problem. It’s about you helping them clear out the mental garbage so they can find the solution for themselves.

While, yes, many people need more business, taking away their burdens isn’t limited to that one area. When you meet for coffee or lunch next time, listen. They may reveal that crushing weight that they bear — a weight that you can lift as easily as you dial a number or compose an email message.

Be a weightlifter. Be the reason they stand taller. After all, there’s nothing like being of service to someone else to make your own burdens seem a little lighter.