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Pink Headphones | Choosing Courage w/ Frank Agin

unsplash-logoMay Lawrence

Hello and welcome to this epic-sode of the Dreamers Succeed Podcast. I am so excited because we are joined by Frank Agin, who is a professional networker. He is a connector of people. He loves people and loves connecting people. You’re going to learn a lot about him. He does it all from a place of so much heart that when I met Frank, we immediately connected. I am humbled and honored that he decided to come and play today for a little while.

If you don’t already know Frank, you’re going to get to know him throughout this episode. I promise you that you are in for a real treat.

Frank

Hey Berta. Thanks for having me. I don’t know what I’m going to tell people that you probably already told them!

Berta

We’ll try to stretch it! Frank, I’m really honored that you made the time. I know that it’s a busy time for you. It’s always a busy time and you’re making great use of this blessing of extra time (people call it). I don’t know if it’s extra, but we’re driving less.

I really am grateful that you are here and you’re going to be sharing with us today. How are things going, by the way?

Frank

Things are going well. For those who are listening, we’re amidst the Covid-19 situation. I just made a determination early on. I think everybody goes through that state of fear. It’s the unknown. We’ve never, ever seen anything like this. There have always been parts of the country – Miami gets hit by hurricanes. The Midwest might have tornado. The Northeast has snow storms. Little pockets here and there; typhoons in East Asia.

There’s a degree of apprehension. I felt it early on. You can allow yourself to be fearful, which is just a natural emotion. Or you can choose courage. And I just decided I was going to be courageous. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do but I was going to start doing things just so I would push the fear aside.

When we allows ourselves to really thing, that’s when fear seeps in. But as long as you’re taking action, your brain is using a different part. You can’t do two things with your brain, so it kind of pushes fear aside. Everything’s fine! I’m busy!

Berta

I’m so happy that you mentioned that. I’ve had this conversation over the last few weeks. It’s hard to even keep track of how long this has been going on. I’ve noticed and I see that in you because I’m receiving these connections with you. I’m seeing what you’re doing and how you’re being of service. The people that are being of service, that are taking this opportunity to be a stand for using their expertise to serve people who might be able to look at things differently now, are really on the optimistic side of the spectrum. They are on the courage side, as you describe. Fear is just not a factor for them. They are in full-blown “Let’s see how we can help others navigate through this time.” I’m really, really happened that you mentioned that.

I think it’s important to differentiate the two.

Frank

I’m totally sincere about that. I will talk to people on the phone – people in my organization or just random people. It’s like, “I don’t know how this is going to go.” It’s like… what is the one step you can take in a positive direction? Just stop and think about that. Then they’ll come up with it. Let’s take that and figure out what the next one is.

Let’s keep figuratively putting one foot in front of the other. That’s all you can do.

Berta

That’s key. That gives us control. At least with so much around us that we can’t control – that control of that next step that we’re taking. So, Frank… tell me; if I looked you up in the dictionary, what would it say?

I know this is really hard for you because I know that you’re coming from a place of humility always – even if it’s not your intention (it’s in your DNA). Modesty aside, if I looked you up in the dictionary, what would it say?

Frank

Reliable. Have you ever heard the saying, “Take a message to Garcia?”

Berta

Yes! That’s a great book!

Frank

It is a great book and most people haven’t read it, but it’s a story about reliability. It’s a true story. It’s a lost story. In fact, I devoted a whole podcast episode to telling it and found a gentleman who did a voiceover for the “Take a message to Garcia” essay that was printed in the late… what was it? 1899. A long time ago. The English is a little hard for us to kind of speak through, but that just resonates with me.

My kids hate the saying, you know? Take a message to Garcia. They know exactly what I mean, you know? But that’s how I want to be known: you need something, you come to me. Yeah, I’m a connector and all those things – I try to be, at least – but I really want to come through. If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. If there’s some reason I can’t, I’ll let people know.

Reliable. That’s the answer.

Berta

That’s a great one, Frank. I see that and I know there’s so much passion in how you serve your community and that reliability element. I think you’re attracting those people that are like you. I love that you mentioned that book. I read it late last year and started recommending it to everyone who would listen. I think that it’s something that we need that resurgence of what that means and what it means to really means to have that as part of our culture.

Frank, can you talk to me a little bit about – just so that the listeners understand – how you have taken your networking prowess (for lack of a better word)…

Yes, you can learn to do it, but you sort of have to be born with that dedication to service. And how you’ve created your business model – not only for what you do for people, but also what you’ve created with Amspirit. Is that a fair question?

Frank

It’s a totally fair question. I don’t want to say I take issue with you saying you have to be born with it. I think we’re all born with it. I think it’s part of the human condition. I point to the events of 9/11 and the events of Covid-19 as parallel things because people are looking out for one another more than they ever have. 9/11 – there are all sorts of stories of people fleeing from the twin towers being helped by homeless people who were begging for money moments earlier.

That’s just hard-wired into who we are. If you look back at human development…

When I’m saying human development, I’m not talking about 100 years ago or 200 years ago… I’m talking 50,000 years ago when we lived in tribes and clans. You had to contribute. You had to be a giver. If you didn’t, you were out. If you were out, that was a death sentence.

We have developed with that sort of mindset. I think what has happened with business is we hear these urban legends of, “Oh to be in business you’ve got to be cut-throat and take care of yourself.” It’s simply not true. The people who are the most successful are the people who do the most for people. Not just people like you and I who have small businesses. When you look at some of the really, really iconic business people: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates… they are doing a tremendous amount with their wealth and their knowledge and their connections. That’s a key component to success.

With respect to how I am and what Amspirit’s about: I just sort of surrender to that – that I’m here to help other people and I’m not expecting anything from anybody, but I’m hopeful. I’m very hopeful. What I notice, Berta, is when I do things for people, I get one of four responses. One, I hear nothing. Okay… they didn’t listen to their mom. They don’t say thank you.

Then there are people who say thank you. That’s nice. It’s nice to be appreciated. I’m not expecting it, but it’s nice. I note that.

The third type of person will thank me and then, “Hey Frank, why don’t we get coffee I want 6 other things I want help with.” I run from those people because they’re just takers.

Then the fourth type of person – I put you in this category – people who you connect with a do things for and it just becomes this ongoing dance; this ongoing exchange of helping each other with different things.

The people I’m sending to you and the people you’re sending to me doesn’t diminish you. When you send me a contact, it doesn’t diminish you. If anything, it helps you. And so, that’s really the mindset of what we need to be doing. What I find is that I will double-down in working with the people who are those givers. You get a return on your investment.

It’s just been part of my mindset, with respect to the organization. In fact, we’ve been doing a lot of webinars and that as of late with Amspirit just because Zoom has allowed us to really reach the whole organization. People are like, “Hey, can I bring guests?” Absolutely! I’m not going to sit at the door and say, “Wait a minute, you haven’t paid dues.” I like to help people and just trust it’ll come back to me. I haven’t been let down yet, so I continue on.

Berta

One of my favorite quotes is that, “A candle doesn’t lose any of it’s light by lighting another candle.” You and I have had this conversation: you put people in two categories. You have two buckets. You have the givers and the takers. There is no gray for you. It’s just who do I know – who would donate a kidney to a stranger if they had the ability to do it?

I really gravitate – as you mentioned – to the people who are the givers. There are always givers. There are always people doing great things. You mentioned 9/11. What did we feel like on 9/12? Everybody was standing in line… I remember standing in line for hours just to donate blood. The amount of people that were there…

I know Mr. Rogers says his mom always said, “Even in a catastrophe, you look for the helpers.” There are always people helping. It’s interesting that you went back… I read a great story by Margaret Meade. She’s at this conference. A group of college students. Someone gets up and asks her, “What was the first sign of civilization for humans?”

They’re expecting for her to say, we found a bowl or something that was crafted or a weapon. She said, “A healed femur.” A healed femur means that someone was incapacitated – the femur is the largest bone in the human body. For that femur to heal, especially in the times of the cavemen where there were no medical devices – nothing that we have now in the way of helping that healing process. That person had to be cared for. That person had to be watched after and kept safe from the elements and from predators.

That means that if that person was able to heal, someone had to take the time. That is – in her opinion – the first sign of human civilization. That’s how we became a civilized society. When we took the time to care for someone. Listen… that may have been a six-month process. But when they find in the excavations a healed femur, she says that’s how far back we can go to know that as humanity, we were civilized, which I think is just a beautiful testament, especially from an anthropologist.

I encourage everyone to look it up. When you look it up it gets into even the reaction. It was just not an expectation from the student body for that to be the earliest sign of civilization. I thought that was really cool.

So, Frank. I want to thank you for this. For those of you who do not see it, Frank wrote a book called “Foundational Networking: Building Know, Like, and Trust to Crate a Lifetime of Extraordinary Success.”

I just finished the book. I love it! Frank, can you tell us a little about how that book came to be and what motivated you to put all your ideas down somewhere people can read that?

Frank

Absolutely. I started my career as an attorney in a big firm and went into private practice. When I went into private practice, I had no idea how to get clients. I really had to learn networking from the ground up. I don’t want to say it was a taker, but that was what I thought you had to do – go out and self-promote. Then I stumbled upon what is now my organization: Amspirit business connections. I started the process of learning how to be a student of networking. Always interested in teaching and always interested in learning. What happened early on was – as I was reading other peoples books about networking – there were lots of tactical things, lots of strategic things.

Have a good 30-second commercial. Give a great 30-second commercial – that’s awesome. And yet I saw people with great 30-second commercials who really didn’t have good networks. I had a client – one of my legal clients, Larry. Larry was not a very articulate person. Great guy. Good old boy. He had an incredible network of people. Wonderful person – wonderful human being. I can go on and on and on about Larry. He didn’t have that [30-second commercial]. So what’s the difference? What I determined was that networking skills and tactics don’t work unless you have the foundation of know, like, and trust.

That foundation of know, like, and trust, is built on three things.

One: how we present ourselves to the world. If you’re a mope, nobody wants to be around you. But if you’re optimistic and courageous, you just attract people to you.

The second thing is your degree of altruism. Your degree of wanting to give back to the world. People who want to give back to the world have a tremendous following. That’s just gotta be part of the foundation. If you’re a giver, nobody cares if you don’t have a good thirty second commercial, right?

The third thing was what I call integrity. Being reliable, being honest. That really comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, you know? Being willing to share the credit when something good happens is a function of integrity.

I saw those as the things that you kind of built a foundation on and that was really the genesis of the book. I don’t want to have a book that just talked about, okay, you need to do this and bring cards to an after-hours. To me that was just too narrow. People needed to take care of the foundational elements first – of networking.

Berta

The pillars for the book, which I think are the pillars to building a great tribe. I like building a generosity-centric tribe. Presence, altruism, and integrity. With every chapter – or at the end of every strong bullet point – you have these foundational networking exercises. It really helps the reader. We bring in our networking experiences, which I love the way that you did it because every time I read a chapter, I would be able to relate to something that I’ve done through my networking experiences or an experience that I had that fit into that category.

I congratulate you and love how you’ve been able to really encapsulate… I’m sure it comes from all the experience that you’ve had – the things that we face; the challenges, the emotions, the wins. You know, when you have that perfect connection that you make early on. You build those foundational networking exercises and those networking extras. Can you tell me a little bit about why you felt putting that in the book was important? I appreciate it as the reader.

Larry

Truth be told, it took me 18 months to write the book. Every Monday morning I would block out my calendar from seven in the morning till noon. No emails, no phone calls. After 18 months, I had 360 pages of material. What you have in your hands is about 240. I met with a friend of mine, John – he’s a communications expert… leadership and communication consultant.

He was very sheepish about the meeting. He said, Frank, you need to cut out 120 pages. That was the first thing he said. It was like, oh my god – that’s my baby. I spent 18 months on this!

The other thing he said was, “You need to put the stories at the end.” Structure it so the lesson is right up front. Share the credit. Then share a story about sharing the credit. Be encouraging… talk about that then provide the story.

Those were always in there, Berta. I just kind of put them in as extras. Some people like to read those things and some people don’t. Thank you.

Berta

Especially when we’re getting into something that we really want the meat and potatoes, it gives us both things. You’ve got the book, but it’s almost like you’ve got the workbook, too. Let’s put it into practice and let’s see what it looks like, because it’ll stand out at the next event.

I wanted to read this because I didn’t want to mess this up. So, as a comfort-zone coach and someone who believes in getting out of our comfort-zones, I wanted to read this because I want you elaborate a little bit on what this means. One of your chapters in the integrity pillar was consistent comfort.

You go on in that chapter to describe that initial interaction and how you build that comfort and that rapport. Can you talk about breaking through that discomfort to get to the know, like, and trust stage?

Frank

Yeah. I love looking at networking from an anthropological standpoint. The story you told about Margaret Meade… I’m going to look that up. I try to look at all of us through that lens. The things we do and how we behave through that lens. If you stop and look back, again, fifty thousand years ago. We lived in small tribes, clans, whatever you want to call them – of about 150. That’s what they theorize and there’s a whole study as to why they think that is. We won’t get into it here.

But you could probably spend your whole life and never run into anybody else again. It would just be your people. When you came upon somebody you didn’t know, it usually meant threat. Somebody was coming into your territory or you happened to go over into theirs and you were at risk. So meeting people that you don’t know is not a natural thing.

That’s why, when we go to networking events, we feel that apprehension. I’m a big networker and I’m not ashamed to say that when I go to networking events I can feel that apprehensions. I have ways to quell it and deal with it, but there’s that apprehension there but I theorize that’s where that comes from.

When I talk about building rapport and giving people comfort, it really kind of comes from that. I look at people and say, okay, I know they’re not comfortable with me. It’s a natural thing. They don’t know me. They don’t know me at all. I want to do the things that can make them feel comfortable being around a stranger – someone that they don’t know.

Obviously once you start to get to know people it becomes a whole lot easier. You can roll into a conversation. With somebody you know you can get right down to talking about business. But if it’s somebody new, you’re reluctant to do that. So that was really kind of my thought process with respect to that particular part of the book; just kind of breaking through and letting people know that, hey, I’m not from your tribe, per se. But I’m safe.

Berta

And it’s important. Because I am (it’s funny because when I say this, people laugh), I’m an introvert. We shared a story of how I started networking. I just hated it because it just felt very unnatural to me. I appreciate you sharing that because it really helps paint that picture of how we start breaking through that, frank. I’m grateful for you. I have a personal question. Tell me the first thing you’re going to do when we’re over all this Coronavirus sequestration.

Frank

I’d like to go to the movies. I love going to the movies. My sons, my daughter, my wife; we all like going to the movies. I like going to the movies by myself. I’m like you: somewhat introverted. And I wear a Fitbit. It tracks my sleep. I know when I’m in the movies, because I get so relaxed that my Fitbit thinks I’m asleep. For me, it’s very medicinal (I guess would be the word). I tell my assistant. I’ll go in the middle of the day if I go by myself. I’ll say, I’m going on vacation for two hours.

There’s a movie theater three miles from here. I’ll get in the car, get there in five minutes, go to the movie, and come back to work. It’s like rebooting a computer. I’m ready to go. I’m relaxed. So I do miss the movies. It’s not the same watching it at home.

Berta

A lot of these straight-to-home releases that they’ve done – I haven’t even seen them because I’d rather go and pay. I do that too, Frank. I don’t know if you have a Regal. I think AMC does it too. They have this new unlimited, have you seen that? I do that, too. Every time there’s a release, I’m with my granddaughter every week (if something comes out that week). I go to the movies twice a month by myself religiously. I eat my nachos when nobody is watching so the calories don’t even count.

I don’t have people around me all the time. I can pick that middle seat and I recline. Sometimes, a movie will come on Netflix or come on demand or something. My husband will say, “Oh, I’m going to watch this.”

I’ll say, “That was a great movie.”

He says, “Did you see this?”

“Yeah, I saw it!”

“When did you see it?!”

Then I have to make something up. But I make it a point to do that. I love hiking with my friends, but I hike by myself more often than I should admit. That’s interesting, because I’m sure that’s on a lot of people’s lists.

So, Frank, if I can pick your brain a little bit… if you had three pieces of advice that you could give people who maybe are not taking networking – I don’t want to say as seriously as they should – but are not making the most of their networking efforts… do you have any words of wisdom that you can impart on them?

Frank

Yeah. People do ask me all the time, “What do I need to do to jumpstart this? What do I need to do?”

My number one piece of advice is to find something you’re passionate about and go volunteer. That is networking. You’re going to be out there. You’re going to be connecting to people who have come out of their corner of the world to care about the same thing that you care about. And you’re going to brand yourself as a caring person. That’s one thing I would recommend doing.

The second thing I would recommend doing is I would recommend starting to give. Find a way to give. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It can be as simple as when you walk into the store – when we get to this point – hold the door open for the person. I don’t care if they’re ten feet behind you and it seemed a little unnatural. They will appreciate it.

Generosity is kind of a slippery slope. You do a little something and then you find something bigger to do and then something bigger to do. Keep a journal just for one week of all the nice things you do. Giving people compliments and all those things. What that will do is that will make you look for opportunities, even when you stop journaling. It will make you look for opportunities to help other people. The third piece of advice I will give is this. Find three or four people that you’ve lost touch with and reconnect.

I guarantee that they still know you and like you and trust you. You just need to get caught up. There will be a treasure-trove of opportunities, new contacts, information that you can benefit from.

Berta

That’s great, Frank. I think that all three of them are key components of operating the way that we network and we grow our networks, just from a place of generosity. The volunteering is great advice for people who hadn’t thought of that as a networking opportunity. Not that you go for that.

I’ve always been volunteer coordinator or volunteer leader. When I moved from Miami to Broward, my mentor had moved to Broward as well, so I was able to follow her and her path. She became a big organizer for volunteer Broward. What I most remember about Cindy – she’s a great fan of the show.

She always used to say, “I volunteer to meet my future husband. I know that the caliber of people that I meet when I’m volunteering are not your average person.” She’s not going to meet that kind of person at the bar. She met Wayne while volunteering and I think they just celebrated their 20 year anniversary or similar. They’re a great couple and it’s hysterical for me.

We don’t realize it… some of my greatest friendships were through people that I met while volunteering. I love that you said that, Frank. People need to know it.

So, Frank, before we wrap this up, I want you to share your call letters. How can people find you? How can people find the book – which I highly, highly recommend. Foundational Networking: Building Know, Like, and Trust to Create a Lifetime of Extraordinary Success.

Where can they find the book, where can they find you? Where can they find out about Amspirit?

Frank

You know… the simple one-stop to find all things Frank Agin is to go to Frankagin.com

I have links to my books, links to my podcasts, links to Amspirit, my Linkedin, my Facebook, my email on there. Everybody likes to communicate differently. Some people are partial to LinkedIn. Others want to do email, but that would be the best thing: Frankagin.com

Berta

Folks, follow him. Especially if you could follow him on LinkedIn. Frank is always blessing everyone with so much information and so many good tips that we need to be using and implementing in our businesses and in our lives. It’s not just about business, but really in the way that we’re doing life. I encourage you to follow him and look him up like he said on his website. You’re going to find out everything that you need to learn more about Frank and connect with him.

Every time that I’ve made a connection, I always receive the thank you email. “I had a great conversation with Frank Agin. Thank you so much for the connection.” I know that the spider webs are going to be built on those and those are going to branch out, which I’m very, very excited about. So, Frank, what would you say is the big dream?

Frank

The big dream… you know, for me, with Amspirit, I want to create a business…

People are like, “What are you going to do with Amspirit when you retire?” I don’t want to retire. I want to work on it to my 80s and beyond. I want to live to a hundred and work every minute of it. My big dream is to create an organization that I basically give back to the organization. I want my franchisees to more-or-less own it in the long run. I want to create a not-for-profit that will own the organization and the franchisees will elect the board. That would be my dream: that all the work I’ve put in – I don’t really profit from long term like people sell a company… I can’t take it with me anyways. My kids are all going to be super successful in their own right – they’re not going to need the money.

But essentially turn it back and let this thing live on beyond me. So I’ll never see the dream. I’m planting trees I will never see. That’s what I want to do. It’s legacy.

Berta

Thank you so much, Frank. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a blessing, for being in my life, for imparting so much with our audience and sharing with us today. I pray that you are – I know you haven’t stopped and you’ve probably been sort of upping the ante on everything you’re doing now. But I’m sure we’ll be on the other side of this soon enough and thank you, thank you, thank you my friend.

Frank

You have a great day!

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