This may come as a surprise to all but the closest to me, but I'm naturally an introvert. My happy place is curled up in a cozy corner with a good book and an even better sandwich.
Oh sure I love my parties. I live to plan and throw them. To see my friends, to catch up with them.
But it drains me.
And nothing stresses me out more than a good old fashioned networking night. But, as it turns out, that is one of the staples of the start-up circuit, because it's all about connecting with other brilliant people and pursuing the outcome of serendipitous interaction.
I still abhor it. I hate the awkward nametags, the strategic scan of the room desperately seeking to find a familiar face to which I can glom myself onto, the first, third and twenty-seventh glance down at the phone hoping against hope for an emergency bat call to give purpose to my search and direction to my lost self, adrift among a chatty crowd eager to down wine and catch up.
I do not find these entertaining or fun in the least. J, on the other hand? Hand him a beer and point him in the direction of the cliquiest clique. He will disarm them with a dimpled smile and smoothly ask "so, what keeps your busy?". None of my awkward, "So, what do you do?" followed by copious head nodding and realizing that I now need to listen and come up with a follow up question.
You get the picture.
So, as a survival mechanism, I now give myself a mission. For each event, I give myself 3 goals – maybe it's meet person X, or it's figure out the answer to question Y, or it's get a name to follow up with on topic Z.
I make it a game to conquer. This gives my accomplishment oriented self a sense of purpose. It makes me feel a little less awkward and ridiculous. Less prone to sit by myself at my seat, waiting for the event to commence.
And over time, I've found the approach to actually make these events better and easier for me. The more scarce my time has become, the fewer events I'm able to justify. But now, the ones that I do attend, I find myself walking away with clear value.
Some might say that socializing and getting a night out would be value enough. And I say, eh, wine with J and an episode of the West Wing makes me happier.
But if it must be done, then a touch of compromise. A mission to conquer, and perhaps a reluctant appreciation for extending beyond my comfort.