How My Network Became My Lifeline

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I know what you’re thinking—more eye-roll-inducing clickbait from your favorite Orwellian career protagonist. 

Sure, my flair for drama and proclivity to sniff out corporate defecation and debauchery keeps many returning for more, much to my guileless chagrin. But today’s article is not clickbait. 

I’m as serious as a heart attack. Or, in this case, Cystic Fibrosis. 

My intention isn’t to belabor, bemoan, or be-itch about my newborn son’s genetic condition but to share an unintended godsend to networking that never occurred to me. Let’s dive in.  

Networking Results May Vary

Winters in Montana are long, cold, and dreary. My remedy is to work my ass raw during the dark days and slack off during the summer. I bet I’m not the only one. Workaholics like to bottle pain by working harder. 

More on that mental madness later.

February brought a whirlwind of opportunities and challenges at breakneck speed. Much of which exists due to unsustainably hellacious networking. 

I averaged 12-18 calls on these Zoom-laden lousy weather days. Of which I met 4-6 new executives a day. 

Networking efforts led to a speaking event with Chief to over 300 executive women, a presentation on psychology and persuasion with WELD, and an opportunity to talk negotiation with top marketing executives in CMO Huddles. 

Perhaps more important than all this braggadocio is that I seized market intelligence to support finalizing three salary negotiations for executive clients. Bragging about bragging by bragging more—this is how I made it in Silicon Valley, y’all. 

But still—most conversations didn’t amount to anything. So why do it? 

If the odds are that I won’t get something meaningful in return, why would I spend so much time giving… time? 

You Shouldn’t Need A Reason To Help Others

Unless you’ve been Patrick Starring your ass under a rock for over a year or so, you’ve noticed the market do what it does best. 

Crush people. After all, corporate America loves to lead its lambs to slaughter while claiming to do anything but.

People are hurting. So are banks, I hear.

You can bitch about it and build an audience, like me—OR—you can make a friendly phone call today and make someone’s year—or more. 

You don’t need to sell. You don’t need to ask for an interview. You don’t need something tangible to warrant being a God damn human. And you DO NOT need ROI. Pardon my extra spice today; you’ll know why shortly.

Never have I felt more strongly about that reality until Friday the 3rd. 

Bad News Never Had Good Timing

Friday afternoon, I paced our family room on a call with a client while my wife took a call from a specialist doctor. Mary gushed into tears immediately, and my throat dropped through my anus. Not sure what happened to the call I was on. 

We got the news that we share with 0.00066% of parents in the United States. But who’s counting?

Our 21-day-old baby Noah has Cystic Fibrosis, a progressive genetic disease affecting the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. 

The doctor said, don’t do a Google search. 

Of course, I did what any mentally deranged parent would do when their world goes black—I did the Google search, AND then I took my next client call. 

“How are you feeling about being a parent? How is little Noah?” 

I have difficulty lying or robot-responding when someone asks me how I am. So I broke into snotty sob tears. Sorry, Heather. 

It turns out that you can’t bottle all of your pain by working harder.

There is no comparison, but 100s of thousands have had their world flipped upside down from a layoff. There’s a lot of “pain” going around. 

Where do you turn? Do you have an answer?

The Unexpected Shot In The Networking Arm

I sometimes can’t help but feel like my brightest days are behind me. And I’m not the one that’s sick.

For a try-hard with a lot of pride and ego wedded to my ability to provide for my family mentally, physically, spiritually, and financially—I don’t think I can afford to suffer. Further, I need all 4 of those attributes in relatively strong working order to continue selling my brain as a product. 

Man up, Jacob. Your wife needs you. Your boy needs you. Your clients need you. Your mortgage needs you. Hell, you need you. 

How can I grieve?

Mary and I experienced all five stages of grief regardless and will undoubtedly do so again and again.

I’m not proud to admit I uttered a profound fuck you to God. 

I wallowed in piss, angry at people I had never met, ruining their perfectly healthy bodies with cigarettes, alcohol, and meth—and doing stupid shit like bitching over losing an interview, not getting a promotion, or only winning $20,000 more in a negotiation. 

How dare you? And how hypocritical of me.

If only I could trade afflictions with my son—or if I understood what 23andMe meant when it said: 


If you and your partner are both carriers, each child may have a 25% chance of having this condition. Your relatives may also wish to consider testing if they plan to have children.

Either way, I float on. Hollow. Entirely devoid of anything positive. 

But I snapped into action, turned to my phone, and sent a few texts. 

Maybe 6. Maybe 40. 

Within only a few hours, Mary and I had:

  • Experiences from the top Cystic Fibrosis centers in the country.
  • Referrals to physicians from San Francisco, Billings, Denver, Boston, and Europe. 
  • Text introductions to top executives in biotechnology, genome therapy, and FDA clinical trials working with CF.
  • Over a dozen parents of children with CF, their experiences, and why there is hope from “miracle” CFTR modulator drugs that may prevent irreversible pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and lung damage.

The support was overwhelming—and grief sloughed to reveal burgeoning hope. 

Somehow I missed it. 

In my corporate greed to drive my career to unnatural heights by building the most badass damn executive network around—I missed that the genuine and meaningful relationships I had obsessed with making for nearly 20 years—wouldn’t save my career; they would save my life.  

The reality of our world is that, sooner or later, we all get jabbed by the poky end of the stick. 

And it’s not an impromptu cold email that saves us; it’s a fellow human being that we invested time listening to, caring for, and encouraging through one another’s trials and tribulations. 

Next time you question whether you have time to network, do yourself a favor and take action. 

I’m beyond grateful that I have—for reasons I never expected.

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