My family and I moved recently. And much like any big change, this one came with its share of “stuff.” Some good stuff. Some bad stuff. A bunch of easy stuff. And a bunch of hard stuff. And of course, plenty of bubble wrap, broken dishes and eating pizza on the floor.
The move itself was easy. The tough part came when the proverbial dust settled and we were in our new home.
We made it! Our stuff made it. The pets made it. The kids…hold on…yup, the kids made it.
But we were alone.
We didn’t know anyone. We couldn’t find anything. We had no idea when garbage day was. Or how to turn off the garage light. It was as if someone forgot to give us the manual to our new life.
We felt lost.
That’s When We Met Dick…
Dick lives down the street.
When we needed a ladder, Dick had two. When we needed a phone number, Dick sent a spreadsheet full of important numbers. When we had a question about decorating, we got a tour of Dick’s house. Dick even remembered the names of our kids after briefly meeting them only once.
Dick was the first sign we had that this was home.
And That Got Me Thinking…
When you find yourself somewhere unfamiliar, wouldn’t it be great to have a guide? An ambassador of sorts? Someone that is there to help you. To answer the tough questions. Show you how to do things right. Point you in the right direction.
Someone to welcome you.
Not because they stand to profit from your relationship. Just because.
That’s who Dick is in my neighborhood.
And that’s who I want to be too. Only, my neighborhood is online. Connecting with other people through search engine optimization, social media, blogging and Internet marketing. That is my virtual playground. I’m good at it. It feels very natural to me. I know what works and what doesn’t. And I pride myself in my desire to help others and leave this place better than how I found it.
Not because I stand to profit from it. Just because.
So, I Have Decided…
From now on, I’m going to be a Dick to everyone I meet online. That probably means a little something different to you than it does to me, so let me be a little more specific…
My wife and I were given a tour of Dick’s house because we’re pretty bad decorators and were trying to steal some ideas from someone that seemed to know what they were doing. As we were walking through the family room, there was a shelf in the corner with about a dozen or so Emmy’s. Real ones. As in the “stand up in front of a bunch of famous people in tuxes and thank your mother until the orchestra starts playing the ‘shut up and sit down’ music” awards.
If most of us even went to the Emmy’s we would open every conversation we ever had with it. Let alone winning one. Let alone winning a dozen. Not Dick. He didn’t even mention it.
And then I think about our little online community and the arrogance many have of claiming to be gurus, rock stars, Jedi or ninjas in an effort to be perceived as important. The constant selling. The scare tactics. The incessant barfing up of promotional links. All in an effort to excel at the expense of others.
What if we were to be a little more humble instead? Rather than trying to be perceived as important by others, what if we just did important things?
Seek Out People to Help
I never asked Dick for help. Dick asked me how he could help. And he did it in such a way that did not make me feel like I was imposing. I got an e-mail one day that said “If you ever need to borrow a ladder, let me know.”
Think about it. We just moved in. We have kids. We have a lot of pictures. And we’re not 8 feet tall. Add all of that up and it looks like we’re going to be needing a ladder at some point.
By proactively offering rather than waiting for me to ask, Dick took the sting out of being that “pain in the ass needy neighbor.”
Yet, in our lives online, we seldom take a proactive approach to help someone unless there are strings attached. In other words, if there is a product to sell or a way to gain, we’re all in. But do we ever put ourselves out there to help when there is absolutely nothing to gain from it? Not very often. What if we did?
Remember What is Important to Someone Else
For me it’s my kids. There is nothing in my life more important than my kids. So, when you treat them well and make them feel good you are put in a different category of special people in my life. By Dick remembering their names after just one brief encounter, it made them feel important and welcome in their new home. And as a parent, it doesn’t get much better than that.
We all have something that is our most important thing. Yet, we’re so consumed with me, me, me, I, I, I that we never dig deep enough into someone else’s life to find it.
What if we were to find out what is that most important thing for the people we meet online? Make it a point to ask a question about it. Or listen to a story about it. Or comment on their blog post about it. What if we focused more on others? Made sure that they knew that we were not just hearing them. But we were actually listening to them.
Be the First to Shake Hands
I met Dick for the first time as we were both walking our dogs. Rather than the standard “smile and nod” as you politely make your way past the new guy, Dick immediately jumped into a conversation. As it ends up, we have a lot in common.
But it didn’t end there.
A few days later I was walking the dog and here comes his dog again. Only this time, it was attached to a different human. Dick’s wife. Without hesitation, she opened up with an enthusiastic “you must be Marc!”
I was remembered by someone I never even met! Talk about feeling important.
Rather than just “collecting friends” or “collecting followers,” what if we were to spend a little more time starting conversations and creating relationships? Be the first to start the conversation instead of waiting for someone else.
Welcome Others Into Your Home
When we toured Dick’s house, we didn’t just barge in. I asked a question which turned into a full blown guided tour. And there was nothing weird or uncomfortable about it.
We were welcome. And there is something nice about being welcome. More importantly, feeling welcome.
Most of us have blogs. That is our online home. And we welcome comments…as long as the people leaving them agree with us. If they don’t, we chase them away, delete their comments, ignore them or discount their opinions by calling them trolls.
What if we were to change our approach to everyone that came to visit us in our virtual homes. Welcome them with open arms. Allow them a voice, even when they didn’t agree with us. A real conversation instead of just limiting it to a back-slap-a-thon.
And Now I challenge You…
Join me. Be a Dick. Do something different and help clean this place up a bit. There are people out there that need you to be their ambassador. Don’t let them down.
Update: August 21, 2014
Big news! My new book “Be a Dick.” based on everything I learned from my neighbor Dick over the past year is coming out soon! If you liked this post, you are going to LOVE the book! Trust me! For more information, freebies and previews of the book, click here.
Featured image courtesy of Nomadic Lass licensed via Creative Commons.