My friend Wally and I coasted along 285 South in Denver, Colorado, on our way to embarrass ourselves spectacularly at Top Golf. Wally and I have been friends for over twelve years. We’ve cheered each other on while riding our respective life roller-coasters, enjoying the rises, screaming through the plummets, and occasionally puking during the corkscrews. He had at least one kid while I went bankrupt. He had another kid before I landed a dream job. And we’ve shared notes on who got screwed worse during our respective home constructions.
We were officially beginning my two-day bachelor party – because why limit yourself to only one?
“It’s NateFest 2020,” Wally said. “See what that implies?”
“Yup!” An annual NateFest sounded like an excellent idea.
As Wally drove, I asked him how business was going. He said people were tugging him toward online meetings, but he was hitting his stride in turning most of them down.
“It’s like we talked about months ago,” he said. “If a meeting’s not a ‘Hell yes!’ for me, it’s a ‘Hell no!'”
If you’ve read your fair share of business advice, you’ve probably been browbeaten with the importance of networking.
“Your network is your net worth!” Holy moly. So clever.
You’ve got to exchange palm sweat and meet people belly-to-belly. Although, these days, it’s more like awkward nodding and keeping the outer edges of your bellies six feet apart.
You’ve probably also read how important focused work is – not just shutting off distractions but doing whatever it takes to lock yourself in a room, put your head down, and produce or tinker. No distractions. No breaks. No mercy.
Which is best for you? If someone invites you to a Zoom call to meet new people, should you decline to focus on your tasks? Should you push away from your desk and wrangle some people together for some networking? Both? What should the ratio be?
As Wally and I drove to Top Golf, I realized the answer.
My friend is an extrovert. Like break-the-needle side of the extrovert spectrum. He’ll never be at risk for addiction to cocaine as long as he’s got his real fix – another person to talk to.
We parked and strode up the steps to make a mockery of golf. Around us, women hopped around with their butt cheeks hanging out of their shorts.
“Are underbutts a thing now?” Wally later asked.
“They are,” I would say. “Especially at a place that serves liquor at two in the afternoon on a weekday.”
When we met my other friends at our table, Wally started goading the server into poking fun at me, to truly commence the bachelor party. One of my friends used to be a pro golfer. He told me to hit a ball. I did as he bid. After he recovered from his laughing fit, he gave me some tips on how to grip the club.
My friend used to network too much. He’ll talk shop with the person working the counter at a 7-11 if there’s a chance he’ll glean some fact about the zoning laws and how they impact the franchise in that particular town and who he can talk to on the town’s council to get a deal going that will enhance municipal revenue. Even that day, my friends had to tug Wally away from a person at a shop, who he struck up a conversation with as we looked up restaurants for lunch.
He doesn’t need to motivate himself to talk to people. Instead, he needs to remind himself to take a deep breath every now and then.
I’m the opposite. I’ve gone months without meaningful social interaction – and I regard those times as peaceful. When I lived in Clearwater Beach, Florida, visited the post office five days per week for six months. The postal workers needed the conversational equivalent of the Jaws Of Life to get more than 30 seconds of back-and-forth out of me.
I have no problems focusing on work. But when I was 26 years old, I had to file for bankruptcy. Even worse, I crawled through a hard-won financial recovery for more than three years. The whole time, I worked menial jobs or sat alone in my condo.
I should have been shoved out my front door to do some networking, with a cattle prod.
(And, by that, I mean someone should have used the cattle prod on me – not that I should have gone to cocktail parties and zapped people as they munched on shrimp and crackers. I’ve been told by my extrovert friends that such behavior is frowned upon.)
I needed more yang in my business life. My friend needed more yin. The Daoist spiritual tradition frames life in yin and yang, which represent opposing yet complementing energetic qualities of all creation. For health, we need to reunite yin and yang. *
Meeting new people, forging new connections, facilitating the spark of different energies, is yang. Withdrawing to work in silence is yin.
For your business to thrive, you need both yin and yang.
The ratio depends on you and the business you’re growing. For example, someone who works as a writer will do better with more quiet time alone – they need more yin. Someone building an online advertising agency who needs clients will do better getting out and meeting people – they need more yang.
The ratio of yin and yang will changes throughout your business’s growth. Startups do better as aggressive yang. Established businesses working to defend their fortress in the marketplace are better with more yin.
When you’re taking advice to heart, first consider if you need more yin or yang. Not just your business but you. Then, consider if the strategy or tactic you’re studying is yin or yang. This framework can help you navigate and accelerate your success.
Wally and I needed different ratios of yin and yang.
He needed the yin advice to say, “No” more, put his head down, and work alone. I needed the yang advice to get out more, which is why I formed a MasterMind group almost five years ago and have been hosting meetings every six weeks ever since. But more yin or yang doesn’t mean 100%. Wally shouldn’t lock himself in a basement with no WIFI for the rest of his life – that’s 100% yin and lacks balance. I shouldn’t be barred from my office seven nights per week, until I stumble home at 3AM with a stack of business cards and my phone already buzzing with texts from potential clients – that’s 100% yang. The Daoists seek harmony through balance.
Whenever you get advice, let it sift through the filter of your yin or yang nature.
We have different pasts, different pains, different wants and needs, different strengths and weaknesses, different blind spots, different projects, and different phases. One person’s victory is another person’s comfort zone. One person’s zone of genius is another person’s distraction. Even another person’s yin can be your yang or your yin their yang. Find the right balance for both and your harmonious business will reward you and others.
*Johnson PhD, J. A. (2018). Daoist Internal Alchemy (Final ed.). International Institute of Medical Qigong Publishing House. Pg. 35