Empathy is much more valuable than intelligence. It really doesn't matter how smart you are, if you're a creepy selfish asshole, you won't get as far as someone who has less intelligence, but is relatable to everyone.
This past year, I have been fortunate to travel on private jets for free. I wasn't able to travel for free on a jet because I wrote a review for them, nor did I sign up for a giveaway. And I did not get myself into private jets by racking up millions of credit card points. I was able to travel on private jets because I had built good relationships. Let me share some background story. Read on as I will share steps on how to build good relationships and become a better networker!
I have a friend, who was once a mentor. He is one of the most successful people I know as a real estate investor in Los Angeles. He also happens to be a very generous person. When I first started my career as a real estate investor, I sought to reach out to pick his brains. I sent him repeated emails and phone calls to the office, but never got a response. For over 2 years, I never got a reply back. Why should he spend time with a newbie investor like me when he's running a huge empire that's very profitable?
I knew he loved real estate, but telling him, "I had love to speak with you about real estate, and what's going on the in the market" just wasn't cutting it. He had plenty of people that were way smarter than I was to talk with. I failed at making an emotional connection.
One day, I reached out to him again, only to have his secretary picked up the phone. For the 100th time, he was not available she said. But before she hung up the phone, I overheard some background music. I asked her if it was Michael Buble playing in the office. She began to tell me that it was indeed, and that my "future" mentor has been a fan of Michael Buble for many years.
It just so happened that Michael Buble was having a concert in Los Angeles in a few months. I only knew this because I am subscribed to Ticketmaster's email list. I booked as many tickets as I could for his concert. I took a gamble that he wasn't aware of the concert, and hadn't booked the tickets for himself already.
Now, all I had to do was find some way to deliver it. I didn't want to email the tickets or mail it, because there was a high chance he wouldn't get it. I just spend what little money I had at the time to buy a bunch of tickets! I was searching for a better idea when an opportunity presented itself!
His office recently took back a property through foreclosure, because the owner failed to make mortgage payments to him as a private lender. It didn't fit his real estate portfolio because he only keeps buildings with 50+ units. It was a four-plex with a front house, that was 3 bedrooms / 2 bathrooms, and a townhouse triplex in the back, that was 2 bedrooms / 1 1/2 bathrooms each. I wanted the deal!
We submitted the offer, and luckily ours got accepted over our competitors. A few days later, during the home inspection, I mentioned that I overheard that he plays Michael Buble's songs at his office everyday. I then gave him the tickets I purchased for the concert coming up. His face lit up!
From there, we hit it off. We started talking all things real estate, and he took a liking to me. A few months passed by, and I was in his office when he said something that I will never forget. "I really enjoy our conversations about real estate the past few months. How come you never reached out to me when you first got started? I'm very easily reached by my office."
I wanted to tell him that I actually have been trying to email and call his office for 2 years but never got a response. Instead, I just shrugged his question off. He has since became a very important mentor for me when I transitioned into commercial real estate the following year. And more importantly, we became friends. I have gone to his house over the years, met his family, went to his birthday parties, and attended events together.
A Rich Mentor With Rich Resources
As someone who is a couple decades older than me, I see my friend as a mentor. I try to listen to him as much as I possibly can whenever we meet up. His knowledge is unbelievable, and he has a great pulse of the global economy. In return, I always try to share my perspectives as well.
Since 2013, he has asked me every year to use some of his flight hours from his private jet club program. Each year, he buys a certain number of flight hours so he can travel without being bothered by TSA or long lines. It's a very convenient solution for those who travel often, want to have the plane to yourself, and receive first class amenities like a comfortable bed while flying.
I initially refused, because I knew those private jets are extremely costly by the hour. I'm used to traveling on the cheapest seats because I'm a frugal shopper. I tend to be the last person to board a flight, and I rarely buy priority seating. I felt bad using his flight hours, especially since I have no way to match his generosity in return.
Then one day, my friend tricked me into believing that if he didn't use all his flight hours, he would lose them. Therefore, I might as well use some of his hours or it will expire. So I did. In early 2016, I booked a flight with a private jet. The experience was unbelievable. I didn't have to wait in any lines and there was no TSA check. I didn't have to take off my clothes or my shoes. There was even a red carpet awaiting as I arrived.
He had plenty of flight hours left, so I kept using it as I had to travel a lot for work. He was very insistent that I use his hours because it was going to expire if I didn't. During one of my trips, I got to know the pilot, and we started chatting. I asked him more about the membership program as I always wanted to fly private eventually, and get a membership. I specifically asked him about the unused flight hours, and he mentioned, "Don't worry about the unused flight hours. Your friend's tier allows the hours to get rolled over every time he renews annually." Oh my goodness! I've already taken his offer a few times and I felt horrible!
Despite finding out and mentioning it to my mentor, he still insisted that I use them as I see fit. Even though he's worth 100x more than me, I still feel shame for using his hours. But at some point, it becomes impolite to keep rejecting his offer. The gracious thing to do is to graciously accept it if he keeps insisting, and somehow provide value in other thoughtful ways. It's hard to find something to give when he's already financially sufficient but sharing insights is one way to do it.
How To Become A BEtter Networker
Having empathy can help you build friendships, move up in your career, build stronger communities, find better opportunities, and even score you amazing resources like private jet! Here are some ways that everyone can build a better emotional intelligence to connect with others.
At the end of the day, people want to help those that they like. You will never get everyone to like you. But you can be a better person. Give as much as you can, and someday, someone will return the favor back to you.