June 7, 2013
Take out a pen and write down the three things you're most passionate about — no more than one or two words each.
Mine are journalism, technology and watching plays.
Where those three passions overlap, Porter Gale writes in "Your Network is Your Net Worth," is "your sweet spot." And she argues that our lives should be organized around our passions and the people who share them — and a fulfilling life and maybe even a career can be found there.
Gale's "Funnel Test" is the first exercise in her first book, which aims to shape up one's life and career through networking online and offline. It sits squarely between the business and self-help genres.
"I think about the concepts in the book all of the time when I ask myself, should I do this activity? Should I do that activity?" said Gale, whom I'll interview at 11:45 a.m. Sunday at the Printers Row Lit Fest. "And if I'm feeling lonely or depressed, I ask myself: What do I need to do to change my routine and connect with people in my core circle? I follow the process. It's a lifestyle."
In the first chapter, Gale, 47, who lives in San Francisco, asks readers to set a tone for their passions and write a purpose statement that's no longer than 20 words. I struggled with selecting a tone but settled on "informative," and then wrote that my purpose is "to share compelling stories on paper, online and in the theater."
As someone unaccustomed to therapy and self-help books — I last picked one up about a decade ago — doing the exercises felt uncomfortable and, about halfway through the book, I stopped. But after mulling over the first chapter, it dawned on me to start a podcast and attend some of Chicago's open-mic storytelling events, such as The Moth.
"I think the book is for the person who is ready to self-reflect and also for the person who wants to better understand the power of today's digital tools to make better connections," she said. "And I hope readers will finish the book inspired by the diversity of stories, and that the exercises will leave them motivated to take action."
That's the self-help part. On the business side, Gale pulls from her experience as vice president of marketing at Virgin America airlines and general manager at ad agency Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, now KBS+.
The best insight into Gale's personality can be gleaned from the list of steps she took "to realize" her "passion for storytelling and write a book." Gale writes that the tone of her funnel test is "inspirational." I also would describe her as relentless.
Gale first emailed writers in her network and asked for coffee dates. At the coffee dates, she asked those writers for agent recommendations. Next, she reviewed a sample book proposal. Next, she wrote her own proposal. Then she rewrote it. Then she pitched agents and was turned down. After that, she went to a writer's conference and met an agent. She sent her proposal to the agent, who agreed to take her on — only if she rewrote the proposal. Nearly 20 publishing houses rejected it. Finally, she and her agent secured several meetings and closed a deal.
"With any big project, people have to recognize that miracles and success don't happen overnight," Gale said. "Success is accomplished in a series of steps or 'little bets' as author Peter Sims likes to say. So I ask people to think about: What are all the small steps they need to take to accomplish their dreams?"
Much of what Gale recommends in the book requires common sense and a bit of fearlessness. Advice like don't swear (oops); don't send emails, texts or voice mail messages when angry or upset; avoid using the BCC function so communication stays honest and transparent; and write down the names of three people you want to meet and then landing the meetings.
Gale also writes about how blogging, tweeting, and using Facebook and LinkedIn enable people to build networks in far less time than was possible even five years ago. Still, online interaction needs to be bolstered with face-to-face meetings at conferences, film festivals, fundraisers, benefits, dinner parties, etc. that dovetail with your passions.
"I've been in marketing for more than 20 years, and it is true that first impressions matter," she writes in the book. "But today your intellect, interests and authentic self are a faster route to success than a designer suit or $200 highlights. Your strongest safety nets are your skills and your network."
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