“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”

This year as a part of my 50th birthday celebration, we stayed a couple of nights at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. It’s a lovely location with lots to do for both kids and parents.

One of the attractions on the grounds was a small labyrinth built off to the edge of the gardens. We checked it out as a family. Upon arriving it wasn’t quite what I expected. The “walls” were very low shrubs, only an inch or two high and the labyrinth itself wasn’t complicated to solve. There were no branches or dead ends. It was simply a path wrapped around itself numerous times. It was a spot for meditation, not puzzle-solving.

As we explored the maze, a couple of lessons can to mind. These apply to networking and to life — not surprising since life is networking. Today, Lesson One: Perseverance.

The path of the maze starts by leading directly to the center then, just before you reach your goal, it begins a zig-zag pattern, running you back and forth in concentric circles that gradually lead not closer, but rather away from finish. Finally, when you reach the outermost ring, you discover the path that leads straight back to the center and success.

As I walked the path, I reflected on how well this represents networking.

You start by attending events. You feel that first rush of success. After a few people take your card, you start to believe that your phone is going to start ringing at any moment. Of course, nothing really happens. No one knows you yet.

You hear that follow-up is important, so you begin calling and emailing. This leads to going on one-to-ones to strengthen your relationships. You continue to meet new people as you attend more business gatherings. At this point it might be easy to get discouraged. You are doing a lot of running back and forth, yet it doesn’t feel like you are getting any closer to your ultimate goal. Still you keep doing the right things. After all, sometimes it’s just a matter of faith.

Finally, whether it’s a new connection or a long-time, well-developed relationship, someone sees an opportunity to help you, reaches out to make that connection, and before you know it all the benefits you had hoped to gain seem to start raining down into your life.

Remember, networking isn’t a race to the end. Trying to force it doesn’t make it go faster. Keep following the right path, practicing the right behaviors, engaging in the correct activities, and before you know it, you’ll find your way to becoming a center of influence and success in your own life.

Next time, Lesson Two: Mental Models.