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Loneliness in Business & The Lucky, Neglected Task That Can Help

The wooden door creaked on its brass hinges.

After chatting with the attendant as she swiped my card, I grabbed a tray and filled it up with food I didn’t have to cook. Balancing my soup bowl and water glass carefully, I looked out over the dining hall. Should I join the cluster forming along the long center table? Go sit next to the freshman I’d met a few weeks ago? Or grab an empty table and enjoy some solitude, with a solid chance that an unexpected friend would quietly join me?

Oh how I miss this daily dilemma of college. When a normal life task like “eat dinner” gave effortless chances to meet friends.

You had similar experiences in school, I’m sure – when just doing your ‘job’ (i.e. showing up to class) delivered interactions galore. When you saw people without having to hop on a carousel of consulting calendars or tending logistics. You simply showed up.

It’s no coincidence that people tend to make deep friendships in school, then find it harder in adulthood. One key ingredient for friendship is repeated, unplanned interactions. If you have to devote energy to set up each and every interaction, womp woooomp, you’ll probably interact less frequently, which makes it harder to make new friends.

Being in business can be even lonelier, because your spare time is squeezed. A project may give you chances to interact with a colleague for a season, but then the project ends and contact peters out. Plus you’re spending long hours with only screens for company, which can distort your thinking that everyone else is having a great time except you.

But there’s actually one business task – a highly neglected one – that can help.

Last week we talked about how you can create your own luck, for real: Make plans to interact with new people. Science says, more interactions equal more chances for awesome coincidences to happen.

Want to exponentially expand the chances of awesome coincidences, without scheduling tons of in-person interactions?


Keep an active email list.

Because an email list is business luck on steroids.

According to a survey I did a few years ago, only 10.2% of you keep and use an email list, which means (*checks math*) roughly 89.8% of you are rolling your eyes at me right now. Or shuffling your feet and saying “I knowwwwwww.” But if I’ve ever given you solid info before, please hear me out on this.

For every single investment of energy from you, you can interact with dozens of brand new people at a time, plus build new relationships, maintain old ones, and give hundreds to thousands more people chances to find things in common with you.

Yes, email lists can be used for marketing, but they also plain old keep in touch with people in a way that brings in elements of actual friendship.

No, you won’t be real life friends with everyone on your list, but the power of repeated, unplanned interactions is still in force. And that is likely to bring you not just clients, but opportunities and invitations you can’t even imagine now, which lead to even more interactions.

(I definitely didn’t think I’d be speaking at conferences across Canada, publishing articles in British and Swedish magazines, getting invited to Key West, or treated to a personal tour of Coney Island when I started sending out these humble emails. But that’s just a handful of what’s happened. More interactions = more luck.)

Plus, the steady benefit: Instead of being scattered to the wind, people who bumped into you by chance can – with no effort on their part – keep getting to know you.

Think of your email list as building a virtual dining hall.

You’re eliminating the work for them to run into you. They see you when they’re doing something they’d be doing anyway (checking their email). Even if they don’t choose to sit with you every single time, if you keep showing up, you’re going to see a lot of them, and that gives a chance for interest, familiarity, and trust to grow.

Plus, if they weren’t ready to buy the first time they ran across you, they might be on the eleventh after learning more about you. And there you are, fresh in their inbox, just at the right moment.

Now, I don’t live in a world where I think everything is unicorn sprinkles and fairy dust.

There are two reasons most people hesitate to build their virtual dining hall of gloriousness email list:

“It’d take too much time! I have too much to do as it is!”

“I’m not good at emailing” (maybe with a dash of “I tried, but people didn’t sign up”)

If you’re thinking this, know that I’m rubbing my hands together in delight.

Will you allow me to try to convince you that neither of those is true? I bet I can bump some of you into doing a 180 on this.

Watch for my next post, there’s something you may never have considered…


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