I was toast.

I was testing for my first Black Belt. The required form had 84 moves in it. Even if you only wanted to pass, you couldn’t make any memorization mistakes. I was in the middle of my examination when I suddenly realized I didn’t know what move came next. I was about to panic.

Then I realized that my body was doing just fine without me. I had practiced that form so many times, it was a part of my muscle memory. I no longer had to consciously think about the moves. Each move came naturally and just flowed.

Your networking skills are the same way.

When you first try to add a new technique or activity, you are probably going to feel awkward. You are going to have to consciously think about approaching strangers. You will intentionally use the INFER technique when you sit down for a one-to-one. You will take pains to prepare good, open-ended questions for conversations at the networking event.

It will feel a little weird — a little uncomfortable. You will continue to perform the activities consciously for a while. You’ll slowly feel more comfortable and confident. Then one day it will happen.

You’ll approach the stranger, or use the INFER process, or ask open-ended questions without even thinking about it. The technique will have become a part of who you are. You will have a form of networking muscle memory. When that finally happens, there’s only one thing to do. Start practicing another activity.

Because if you aren’t uncomfortable, you probably aren’t growing.

Image by pixabay user OpenClips