I just finished the great book, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time  by Keith Ferrazzi. The books major premise: that the idea of rugged individualism, being a lone wolf and succeeding on your own is a myth. Instead, Ferrazzi argues, every success you get should be built off the help and relationships of others.
The message in the book resonated with me, as I’m often too focused on being independent rather than fostering relationships. Some good points from the book:
- Don’t Keep Score – Asking for favors strengthens relationships, it doesn’t put you into debt. The metaphor of a relationship bank account where every favor asked is a withdrawal is nonsense. Instead ask for favors and be more than willing to help.
- People as Part of Goals – Ferrazzi uses what he calls a Relationship Action Plan, by including the people he will need to know or strengthen relationships with in order to achieve his goals. Too often getting the right people on board is an afterthought instead of a priority.
- Your Weaknesses are Your Strengths – Ferrazzi asserts that your vulnerabilities are your strengths in relationships. They make you more human, more approachable and foster bonds.
- Getting Press – There are a few chapters in the book devoted to how to romance journalists to get yourself some press and build a personal brand.
- Guide to Small Talk – There is also a chapter on improving your small talk. I have often found balancing casual conversation with the desire to delve deeper into an interaction tricky. Ferrazzi offers some great insights here.
- Pinging – Meeting people is easy, sustaining relationships is hard. Especially if circumstances mean you aren’t normally in natural contact with each other. Pinging, the practice of sending out small nods and pings to distant friends, is an idea I try to practice and it can be necessary to keep hold of weaker ties.
Success Isn’t an Individual Effort
I find the best books aren’t those that give you the details, but can change your personal philosophy. Never Eat Alone  was a great read for myself because it did just that. I’ve always been focused on independence rather than interdependence in my goals, so this book offered the philosophical kick in the butt I needed to start seeing success as a group event.
However, if you are someone who is already practicing networking effectively and you don’t have trouble asking for help, I’m not sure the book will have the same impact on you.
Criticisms of the Book
Unlike my review of The 4-Hour Workweek , Ferrazzi isn’t nearly as outrageous in his suggestions so I don’t have as much material to nitpick. Once again, I found the book to be a good read, so any critiques are merely afterthoughts rather than harsh judgements. Here are some thinking points where I disagreed with Ferrazzi after the book:
Relationships are Never Efficient
Although this isn’t always a bad thing, relationships are usually far from efficient. I’ve dealt with both people I’ve payed to do jobs for me, friends I’ve made small requests and even worked in helping other people towards solutions. In all of these cases, even if the person was otherwise disciplined and reliable, the efficiency of getting requests handled is a lot lower than if you do it yourself.
People forget arrangements they made with you, commitments they have. Work estimated to take a month takes several. Small requests get prompt offers for help but then never get done. Even people who ask you for help can fail to meet up with your side of the equation.
Often this is understandable and unavoidable. People are busy and can overestimate the amount of time they need. But several years ago it used to confuse me when someone would happily offer to help or make a commitment and then never follow up. Today I understand why these things happen and make sure I leave ample time for a favor to be completed.
Ferrazzi never mentions that the offer to help and actually helping are two different things, and unfortunately, aren’t always correlated. I’m still testing out my own communication strategies to ensure that the offer and service match up, but it takes time. This doesn’t detract from his core message of relying on people, but I felt it was important to point out that relationships can’t just be fit into your to-do list.
Through my experiences, I always ensure any promises I keep are met or thoroughly explained if they cannot be. But, I’m just a young guy with a lot of flexibility and fewer responsibilities, so that virtue may be harder to uphold when I’m older, so I won’t judge others if they fail to do the same.
Ferrazzi said it a few too many times for my liking . To give him some respect, he did explain what he meant by “being yourself” as not hiding your vulnerabilities and being open with new people.
But this talk of “being yourself” reveals a deeper criticism (which many of you shared towards Holistic Learning ). Ferrazzi seems like a guy who has always been a good networker. He may have practiced the skill, but I don’t believe there was any defining moment when he went from chump to champ in relationships. Ferrazzi explains himself that he was networking even as a young golf caddie to the elite.
This doesn’t mean his advice is worthless, just that it cannot be entirely complete. For someone who is changing their attitude and behaviors, there will inevitably be a few steps Ferrazzi can’t address because he hasn’t gone through them. “Be yourself” for Keith has long meant being a person with great networking skills, so there will probably be pieces missing from the picture for someone trying to follow his lead.
Those criticisms stated, I still believe the book is well worth a read. It is full of practical advice and philosophical as it addresses important issues. I can’t possibly give the book a fair review in just a few hundred words, so I suggest you read it yourself.