When was the last time you took a leap of faith?

For me, the answer was Monday.  That’s when I boarded the red-eye out of Portland and headed to Akron Ohio for the week.  Even now I couldn’t tell you exactly why I did it.  Yet there I was, flying through the night, across four time zones and over half the United States, to spend three days with a man I’d never really met.

It all started in LinkedIn.  And an invitation to connect on a deeper level.  So in a way, I had asked for it.

As it turns out, when you send a “thank you” note to folks who connect with you via social media (like LinkedIn), AND you include wording like, “What is something you’ve dreamed about, but haven’t started yet”, you should probably expect at least some people to take you seriously.

I was almost immediately rewarded with some truly genuine responses to my question.  People from San Francisco to Ohio responded with their dreams.  But even that didn’t surprise me as much as what happened next: I was actually able to help some of them along on their journey.

You see, none of us truly realize how much we know until we’re asked.  I was able to share contacts with someone who had an interest in a specific field of expertise.  I was able to offer advice on a topic which I had particular experience.  The words of Zuckerburg came back to me (and I paraphrase): People don’t have an innate human need to use Facebook, they have an innate need for CONNECTION.

It is that CONNECTION that drives us to social media in droves by the BILLIONS.  And a magical thing happens when you’re the one who is willing to share something that may be risky; that risk and sharing is reciprocated. Oh boy is it ever.

“I’m still not absolutely clear on what Simon has in mind.” [Names have been changed out of respect for privacy]

That’s what I typed to another person whom I hadn’t met either.  Joe contacted me via LinkedIn as well.

“Hey Andrew I spoke to a really good friend of mine, Simon and I understand you are meeting with him here in Ohio. When you’re here let me know we can meet.”

Joe is an Xactimate estimator and restoration project manager who works in and around Akron, Ohio.  He and I had “Linked” up a while back.  We participated in the same groups and generally like what each other had to say.  That sort of thing happens when you both spend twenty years in the same field, despite being thousands of miles apart.

LinkedIn has this annoying (or wonderful) feature that encourages you to just invite pretty much anyone within one degree of separation to join your “network.”  And by the time I sent Simon an invitation, and subsequent “thank you” note, I had amassed a modest 1,100 or so “connections”.  This was around the beginning of January this year, after losing yet another job two weeks before Christmas. (For all those “bosses” out there who are thinking about dumping employees this year, think again about your timing.  Two weeks before Christmas is an obvious attempt to lower your “bonus” or commissions liability and does not send the right message to your remaining team.)

Last year I started listening to and following Nick Loper and his amazing podcast on The Side Hustle Nation.  One of his guests, Joshua Jordenson talked about how he’d started using LinkedIn to create a massive following, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  And these weren’t the run-of-the-mill, “I don’t really know you, but OK I’ll accept” type of connections.  These were true connections.

Josh had somehow created a following, which in turn created a huge email list and fan base on his web site.  And then he was, naturally, selling courses on how to do what he’d just done.  I’m not one to spend hundreds on training courses, especially when I’m trying to restart a consulting practice and keep the rent paid, but I AM one to take good advice when I hear it.

What Josh said was to personalize your messaging.  Put a little of yourself in these awful “I’d like to add you” invitations.  Make it real and genuine.  We can all smell a fake a mile away, so his advice was to write each invite individually.  Then, he said, the magic was in the response.  You’ve got to turn around and thank each and every person who clicked “OK” on your invitation to connect.

He said he’d spent HOURS doing just that.  And it worked.  Suddenly (or so it seemed) he had built a network of people with whom he had at least a modest level of real connection.  Then, when your network numbers in the millions, your messaging starts to have real affect.

But we should all be careful what we ask for, right?

Something in my “Thank You” note resonated with Simon.  His response to me was nothing short of epic.  He shared his experience, some of his failures and a couple of dreams; projects that he’s never quite been able to pull off by himself.  And then there it was, right at the end, like a punchline I never saw coming: “We should find a way to work together.”

What? What’s this “we” stuff buddy?  I don’t even know you man!

That’s what I thought at first.  And it took me several days to respond to his message.  I had never imagined that someone would be so forward.  Then it hit me: I was the forward one.  I had asked the question.  Simon was simply reciprocating the sentiment I had expressed first.

So, when I was done wagging my own finger at my internal self for being so closed minded, I returned his message.  After thoroughly checking out his profile and web pages of course.

I reopened the dialogue.  Before long we were on the phone.  “What are you getting at here,” I questioned.  Simon tried to explain.  Then I’d ask a few more questions, to which he’d respond the kind of mystic, spiritual way that I imagine a monk in Tibet would respond.  I think he could tell that I wasn’t exactly picking up what he was laying down.

“Let me send you a book,” Simon said, “Give it a read and let me know if we can work together.”

A book? I’d never been sent a book by a total stranger before.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone has sent me a book, ever.  Except Amazon of course.

“Ok Simon,” I managed, “send it over.”

The book he sent was Lead For God’s Sake by Todd Gongwer.  Fairly heavy stuff to send to a complete stranger.  And risky too.  What if I wasn’t a “religious” person?  That could have been a real turn-off right there, right?  But it wasn’t.  And the book resonated with me on the subjects of motivation and leadership.  My next conversation with Simon went something like this:

Simon: Did you like the book?

Me: I did.  I try to follow those types of leadership principles in my life.

Simon: Good. Why don’t you fly out to see me?  We can discuss how to apply those same principles to leadership in our industry.

Me: Sure.  How’s the third week in April?

And that’s how I found myself on the red-eye out of Portland last week.  My leap of faith was rewarded with an incredible week full of amazing fellowship and inspiring leadership lessons.

{Now, another week past, I’m finally finishing this post}

The Devine (or God, or the Universe if you prefer) sends us messages all the time.

And we are constantly doing one of three things; 1) ignoring them because “we know better” 2) are too distracted by our own drama to hear them or 3) taking the time to be quiet and listen.

You will be amazed what happens when you choose option “3”.

I thought my life was over in December.   I had less than two month’s overhead in the bank, and ZERO income that I could see in the near future.  My wife and I had more than a few panicked moments.  We started making plans to pack up the kids and move.  And then something happened.

A door opened. And for the first time in a long time I chose to listen, and walk through.  Then do you know what happened? Another door opened, and another.

It’s now almost May.  And boy have I been busy!  I have written and SOLD a training manual.  I’ve designed, published and SOLD a video training course.  I’ve recorded and successfully launched a podcast!  And the best part, my marriage is stronger than it’s been in years.

Do you want to know the secret? I had nothing to do with it!  All I did was answer the call. And even though it was scary….

I took the leap of faith.