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Remember back in middle school or high school when the teacher made you create a writing web during class for an assignment?

You likely sat in your seat and stared at the blank piece of paper with a big circle enclosing your main idea plopped in the center of the page. You’d branch off thin lines to form other bubbles that contained your smaller sub points. Those would fork into even smaller subtopics still until you had something manageable.

That was the idea at least.

Often times, you’d just scrap that piece of paper after the teacher came by your desk and start writing freeform ignoring all forms of planning.

I’ll admit that I don’t have a firm platform for outlining my writing ahead of time. Typically, I’ll jot down my thoughts (or type them out) in bullet form following a very loose structure. I always plan on systematically filling in the details in some organized fashion, but I often end of up writing freeform figuring things out along the way.

It’s not that writing webs are completely useless. In fact, I think they are extremely useful. The purpose of course was to break down a huge idea or topic into manageable parts that can be tackled one by one.

I took this exact same approach learned in middle school to tackling the idea of networking and developing relationships – and it’s working.

Let me explain.

The idea, of course, is to start out with a huge goal in mind. Mine was to meet the high-level authorities of the fitness industry. The guys that act as the official gate keepers of what articles get published, which ones get the most traffic, and who is seen as an authority. Believe it or not, there are a few key players that can essentially make or break your career.

I started with the top. Who did I want to meet? I thought big – names like Arnold for instance.

Branching off of those big names were topics, events, and other fitness professionals all that were a step down in the chain in terms of popularity. Don’t get my wrong. These guys weren’t no-names by any means, but they weren’t Arnold. 

After several steps of breaking down the individual into a series of topics, events, and other networked individuals, you have the outskirts of your networking web. These are the people, places, and things that are ultimately going to lead to the big kahuna. When I started out, I went straight for someone at the top, applying for a mentorship with John Romaniello (effectively called Roman in fitness circles).

Needless to say, that effort fell short.

Rather than ditching the whole process, I started smaller meeting individuals that know people and offering them what I could at them time – exposure. I’d quote them in an article for Men’s Fitness or some other magazine and offer the all-important link back.

I haven’t met Arnold (yet), but I have gained some traction and made incredible relationships with individuals that truly inspired me to start writing. 

Back to the school example and how this relates to you.

When you were in school, you could effectively wing it when writing an article and have things work out alright. In the business and networking world, that just doesn’t cut it. You need to have a plan in place detailing where you want to go and who you need to meet to get you there.

That’s where the writing web comes in. It helps to break down your goals into manageable steps.

Start a networking web. Jot down the big idea in the center (and make it big). Branch of with people, events, topics, and opportunities until you have something workable. Rather than scrapping this web like middle school, use it as a tool to plan the events you go to, who you interact with, and what business relationships you pursue.

Have any other thoughts on business and networking? I want to hear them in the comments below.

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