Recently I took my three young daughters to the park, anxious to get out of the house after a couple days of rain. They were happily playing on the twisty slide when my two-year-old found a roly poly. I was distracted with her for a couple minutes – mainly making sure she didn’t eat it – and turned around to check on my four-year-olds. This is what I saw:
EEK! I anticipated we’d get a little dirty, but once again they took it to the extreme. I thought about scolding them, but one look at their smiles and I realized I better just laugh instead. Somewhere there’s a point when you are so dirty you really can’t get any dirtier. Since it was clear they were already well past that point, I let them continue squishing mud in their fingers and toes. Fun stuff, and I figured it was nothing a good backyard hose couldn’t handle. I happily pretended to be a restaurant patron while they proudly served mud pies. They were loving it and I have to admit, so was I.
And wouldn’t you know it, about this time a friend and fellow mom strolled by the park with her toddler. She smiled, but I could tell she was truly appalled. She made sure her child steered far away, and made several comments about how mud is dirty and bad and “we don’t touch it.”
I didn’t take it personally, to each her own parenting style. But the irony in the situation wasn’t lost on me. I found it interesting that this particular woman was recently Facebook posting away pictures of herself covered in mud at a nearby “Warrior Dash,” race, huge grins in each pic. But here she was repulsed and disgusted by the exact same substance?
If you’re not familiar with the Warrior Dash, it’s a “mud-crawling, fire-leaping, extreme 5k run from hell.” There are races at locations all over the world, and although I’ve never done it I have to say it looks like a blast. The pictures are hysterical, and there is a huge following out there. Over 800,000 likes on their Facebook page, it’s almost as if people jump at the chance to get muddy and torture themselves.
I pondered why so many folks allow themselves to get dirty during the races (highly encourage it, in fact – no one finishes clean, and the messier the better!). But then these same people are afraid of a little squish in their toes on a random Thurday afternoon? What is the difference? Last time I checked, mud is mud. But it dawned on me — it’s their mindset. If someone plans to get dirty, it’s ok. They’re prepared for it and in the correct state of mind. But if they’re not, for some reason they tend to shy away. Problem is, if you’re not open to opportunities you may miss some really good experiences. Your mindset can make all the difference.
Mindset in the Business World
This same concept easily transfers from the playground to the business world. Ever notice how at formal “networking” events, people are anxious to talk, make new contacts and promote themselves and their businesses? Chamber breakfasts, professional organization happy hours, association lunches, etc. – they’re all ripe for passing out business cards and chatting with new people. But like the mud example, it baffles me how so many business owners who are gung-ho at official events completely turn off their networking bulb when they’re off the clock. What they don’t realize is that by having the wrong mindset they could be missing valuable opportunities every single day.
“Networking” doesn’t have to be formal or planned, in fact it often comes when you least expect it. The other dad killing time at your kid’s soccer practice could be a stellar account – why not get off your iPhone and start a conversation? The lady sitting next to you in the dentists’ office could have a promising lead on a new client. The friend of a friend you run into at dinner could be the perfect fit for the new IT position you’re hiring for. Problem is, so many times people are not in the “networking” mindset that they miss great chances.
Bottom line is that if you open your mind to new situations, good things just might come your way. Be prepared to take advantage of opportunities, and don’t be afraid to talk to someone new — even if it’s not an official 7am networking breakfast at Panera Bread. And of course, don’t be afraid to get a little muddy every now and then. There’s not much to lose, and the smiles you create will be worth it.