With a mighty “Hiyaa!”, I drove my foot toward the waiting planks of wood…

… and bounced off.

As one of the tests for my next belt at Keith Hafner’s Karate, back in the Spring, I did a board-breaking — actually a triple board break (three at once).

If you check out the video, it wasn’t a rousing success.

At least it wasn’t a success based upon whether the boards actually broke. Grand Master Hafner believes that the successful board-breaking is one where you learn lessons you can apply to your training and to your life.

Believe it or not, this “failed” break reminded me of a number of lessons about networking.

Lesson #1: The more people involved, the better

As you could see in the video, there were only three people “holding” — two in front holding the boards, and one behind in the center to brace the two of them. None of them were heavyweights. You may have noticed when I kicked (both times) their bodies moved back a good three or four inches. It doesn’t sound like much, but with three boards, I needed a larger, heavier group to hold that could handle the strength of my kick without moving.

By the way, this is no fault of the holders. They are all great martial artists. They just didn’t have enough body mass between them.

Networking Lesson:
Just as with my break, if you want help from your network, you need to make sure that it’s big enough and strong enough to absorb the effort. If you’ve only just started bulding your network — perhaps it’s still relatively few in number or most of the connections are in the “development” stage — then making a big ask just isn’t going to happen. Your network won’t have the depth or breadth to be able to help out.

What’s a big ask? How about a personal introduction and endorsement to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? If your network is too small, chances are no one in your network can make the connection. If the connections aren’t strong enough, they won’t be willing to make the connection.

What’s the solution? Well, you can (and probably should) do several things:

  1. Grow your network. Add new people. This means attending more networking events and following up on introductions.
  2. Deepen your network. You may already have plenty of connections, but none of them may know you well enough to think that helping you is a priority. You need to start deepening the relationships. Stay in contact — more one-to-ones. Find ways to help them. Make yourself a valuable part of their lives.
  3. Reduce your ask. The holders I had that day would have been sufficient for a single-board break. Similarly, you can reduce your ask to fit the strength of your network. Instead of the personal introduction and endorsement to the CEO of ABC Corporation, you might instead ask for advice on who to approach in the company.
Networking is not just a numbers game. Still, the more people you know who are looking out for your well-being, the stronger your network is and the more powerful results you can ask of it.

Of course, before you can call on your network, you have to build it first. That takes time and forethought. We’ll talk about that lesson next time.