Archive for January, 2016

I say “A” rather than “The” because it’s just one of many I have – all of us have – or could have.

Not all written down, although I should do that. The others remain locked away in my head. This one is about a running organization I have formed, but it’s really about the power of and the opportunity in networking.

I have more than one of these in each of the three professional and quasi-professional endeavors in my life, what I call the Three R’s in my work life: Running, Roofing, and Writing. This is the first and only one I have actually put to paper. I think if I drew them out as this one is, I would be pretty amazed, maybe shocked at the graphic depiction of just how important networking – and my network in particular – is. My mantra regarding networking is, “You just never know…”

Really – one really does not know just where any one connection, meeting, introduction, acquaintance might eventually lead. Pretty amazing sometimes.

A [Networking] Circle of Life

“Can Elijah come over?”

Jace the 2nd Grader is my son, now 14 and a high school freshman and a mean golfer who is still in the process of deciding he may just actually want to become a serious student. But with this Circle of [Networking] Life, I begin a few years ago, and trace – build, actually – this adventure over the course of six years. And Jace was a 2nd grader at our neighborhood school.

Jace met Elijah, also a 2nd grader and in Jace’s class (and who now goes by Eli. How we change . . .), and they became fast friends. So, as things naturally go, we parents became friends as well.

“Hi Gregg, I’m Jace’s Dad.”

Elijah’s father and I became friends, and as things went, we had a few things in common. In spring 2009 I became “available” (you like that?), as I and 20-some others were laid-off at our comfy corporate digs. Turns out Elijah’s father, Gregg, had also become “available” on the employee open market. So we talked. A lot and often.

“You need to meet my brother, David.”

Based on everything we talked about, he said, “You need to meet my brother, David”, and gave me David’s cell number. Oh yea, Gregg and I connected on LinkedIn somewhere along the way. I called David and connected with him on LI, then we met at the neighborhood coffee shop – yes, for an actual face-to-face get-to-know-ya. I know – weird. We talked about a number of companies, including his employer, and job openings, and traded referrals. Not one of the personal contacts or specific jobs listed worked out; not even one interview resulted. But we stayed in touch.

Fast forward, I eventually landed a new job, and after five-and-a-half years as a contractor with a small, local IT/engineering firm assigned to a very cool US government defense agency, my portion of the contract was “cancelled” (I’m pretty sure I was fired, is how that goes in plain language), I became “available” again, so I called David to reconnect.


MWAM grey w blu trim

Around this same time I had fulfilled a longtime ambition to create and direct a 1-mile running event, The Oberlin Mile, and in that process, formed an umbrella organization – still to this day in ongoing development – called Mile With A Mission. So while looking for a so-called “real job”, I was deep in the midst of building out and putting flesh on the bones of my real passion. That thing that any of us wants to do for a living if money were no object.


Passion. That thing that any of us wants to do for a living if money were no object. The thing we BELIEVE in. The thing that we cannot get out of our system; that thing that we feel a burning desire to pursue and accomplish. Something we would say we love to do; that we cannot imagine not doing.

Purpose: Your paid vocation – work, career, job, daily efforts that lead to getting paid – that purpose: It’s at the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you’re great at, and what you get paid to do.

This is where you stop reading and think. Get your notebook out and write it –or them – down. What would it be for you? It’s not about just financial survival. It’s not just about having a responsible job that would make your mom or your in-laws stop worrying. Its’ the thing you believe – the thing you know – it’s worth committing yourself to: Your PURPOSE.


It is important to note here that I am referring to purpose from a vocation / avocation standpoint; not your ultimate purpose “IN life”. My personal (and very biased belief) is that that is really, ultimately a spiritual issue: “What is my purpose IN LIFE?” Different than what is my purpose in the world of work and career – paid vocation. The discussion of “my purpose IN life” is a very important bunny trail, but for the point of this discussion, it is a bunny trail, so will not go down it any further today. Let’s save it for a one-on-one coffee meeting. I’ll buy.

“You need to meet Bob.”

David and I sat down at the other local coffee shop, and lo and behold, he had just become “available” as well. So we talked. He recommended a book to me (which I bought), and based on all that we talked about, he said, “You need to meet a guy from my church, Bob.” So he called Bob, and sent me his LI profile, and Bob offered that he would be glad to meet with me. Based on everything we talked about.

“You need to meet John.”

So I contacted Bob, and we met. Wonderful guy. Showed a deep and sincere interest combined with a constructive critical eye and ear. Turns out Bob is a retired vice president of a telecommunications company, and now has several of his own gigs, including providing funding for and advice to businesses and “activities” he truly believes in, one of which overlapped into my passion wheelhouse.

Some of the initial stuff and people, and actually the primary reason David wanted to introduce me to Bob – some developed, some did not. I have made some connections. And Bob granted me a second meeting and encouraged and challenged me further. Based on everything we talked about, he said, “You need to meet John.” And with that, he opened the door with John for me, and I made an appointment which he was expecting (important).

Turns out John is CEO of a relatively new but extremely well assembled IT company. He has a long and distinguished and high profile professional track record. He is former VP of a couple of well-known companies I was interested in applying to and knows every top-shelf executive I could never otherwise have access to. He is also deeply involved in an organization which serves to introduce under-privileged students to the world and advantages of technology.

“You need to meet Brad.”

John is a most gracious, interested, interesting and thoughtful guy, and very down-to-earth, as the saying goes. He met me in his office, then invited me downstairs to have a coffee in the ground floor shop. We talked for an hour. He asked me questions, and I asked him some. We talked about the several companies I was researching for professional opportunities, and he shared the names and positions of several executives he recommended I meet. Out of each of those companies and specific job openings I mentioned, and the ideas for a new career at any of them, I never met any of those guys; never connected in the slightest. Not even one of the personal contacts or specific jobs listed worked out; not even one interview resulted. But something else happened during that hour.

I ventured into MWAM (even yet while recalling the cautions Bob gave me to stay focused and specific (“John’s a very busy guy . . .”). I shared my vision with him, and the great success of the first event completed just a month before. He seemed impressed with its uniqueness, asked questions and was very encouraging, saying, “Don’t give up on that idea.” And with that, based on our conversation about MWAM, he said, “You need to meet Brad.” He proceeded then to tell me about him.


I say To Be Determined because I am still in this stage, this part is not finished. John described Brad as a leading edge, high tech entrepreneur-business creator, venture capitalist, a musician, and the real hook: a runner.

I took my notes as John spoke, as I had in my previous meetings described in this string, and after leaving that day and taking more than a couple of hours to read as much as I could about Brad, I was compelled to go back to my notes to make sure I had the right guy. What I learned about Brad, in a nutshell (no kidding, a nutshell) is this:

Among many other things, he is the consummate entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He is founder, funder, board member, advisor and even owner of MANY leading edge technology companies. He is one of four principals (and a founder) of a venture capital group that is also a rock band. He is in Boulder, Colorado, which apparently has its own gravitational pull for these kinds of start-up businesses. He is known literally all over the country and around the world. He is board member or chairman with upwards toward 20 companies or more. He has long hair and does not tuck in his shirt. He’s younger than me, and I am pretty sure he is smarter than me. He has two degrees from MIT. Look it up. He is a founder of TechStars. Look it up. One of his more recent and high profile ventures – a company that his group has provided double-digit millions to in their earliest stages – is FitBit. Heard of ‘em? Somehow, I think Brad and his partners are going to get their investment back umpteen fold and then some. And I can promise this is not the only startup he is involved in that you have probably heard of. AND . . . he is a runner. According to his website, one if his [many] goals is to run a marathon in every state.

As it turns out, John did not, as far as I know, contact Brad on my behalf. He may have, but I was not made aware of it. But because he mentioned Brad to me, I decided to take that step; perhaps with some trepidation, as it felt very much like a cold call. But, I just stayed focused on the fact the John had said what he did; he must have done so for a reason. So I looked him up on LinkedIn, sent him an email, and boldly (and nervously) asked him if we could have a coffee in Boulder and talk about MWAM. He accepted my LinkedIn invitation, and answered my email. He said, “Michael – Nice to meet you. Let’s start by going back and forth via email – what’s on your mind?”


Eventually, when I conjured up a truly useful question I believed he could help me with, which took several weeks, I asked his guidance regarding Boards of Directors, and specifically the how-to’s of recruiting a board. His answer? “I wrote a book.” So I thanked him and bought it on audio CD. After a year and as I continue to make decisions and develop Mile With A Mission, his book remains a staple for me. In and of itself it is not the end-all to how-to, but it is an enlightening and practical resource.

Beyond all this, the “what next” of it all, I do not know where or to whom this connection might or could lead. I don’t know if it will. I don’t know if it needs to. But it serves as a powerful reminder and encouragement about the opportunity in networking, and personal connections, and the willingness to take appropriate if [sometimes] uncomfortable risks. So following Brad’s name, you see I placed a question mark. After all, you just never know . . .

The Challenge

And if you do nothing else with this, draw your own Networking Circle of Life, and observe just how valuable your connections can be – and just how valuable you can be to those around you.

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Audrey Williams

Humanitarian. Pianist. Cellist. Teacher. Music Creator. Engineer


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