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Do networking lessons happen everywhere? Absolutely, if you’re open to them. And when you are, it’s amazing what you can learn, who you can meet and connect with, and how pivotal and powerful the experience can be.

Take the art show I attended this past weekend.  As my friend Lisa and I wandered through the show, perusing booth after booth filled with extraordinary paintings, photography, jewelry, glass, ceramics and other treasures, we found ourselves enjoying not only the items on display, but also our exchanges with the artists.  Daniel Arredondo is one example. He’s a painter. He worked in the high tech industry for many years, and then retired to paint. His work is not only beautiful and thoughfully delicate, it’s also extremely metaphorical. Lisa and I took the time to listen to Daniel’s stories. Seemed like there was a fascinating tale or idea behind every piece he had on display. It was generous of him to open up and share them with us — a leap of faith and a form of vulnerability that can be very endearing.

And here’s the really cool thing:  Daniel never tried to pitch us. He just loved having some company, answering our questions, and sharing his experiences and passion for his work.(Watch for more on that in a future post.)

Below the Surface  Austin, Texas

Below the Surface by Daniel Arredondo Austin, Texas

One of Daniel’s paintings jumped out at me among the others.  It showed a row of trees with a cutaway of the earth and the delicate root structure below the surface.   The artist said people and relationships inspired this painting and others like it in a series.  “People are like these trees,” he said. “We have our stories on the surface; the ones everyone can see. And then there’s everything that’s hidden beneath, sometimes extending far deeper than we could ever imagine– like roots of a tree.”

His story was a networking lesson.   How often do we meet people, see only what’s on the surface, and never bother to dig deeper, ask curious questions, and invest in the richer conversations that reveal the roots of lives, dreams, ambitions, stories, and connections?

With that, I’m inspired to dig deeper into my connections and relationships; ask about the interesting stuff that’s under the surface. Not in a snoopy, intrusive way, but with a genuine and gentle curiosity that says, “I’m interested in you and your life. I want to hear your stories and learn about you and your experiences.”

Let me know if you are inspired to do this, too.  And let’s see what happens.