In today’s business environment, networking tends to get a bad rap. Society often expects start-ups, inventors, entrepreneurs, and visionaries to fail. Networkers are natural-born connectors and risk-takers. They are typically positive in attitude and accept the sentence “No.” along with many failed-attempts as minor successes. They move forward.  Networkers are often in sales, business development, fund-raising and network marketing. I often wonder if Jesus – the one in the Bible – is the ultimate networker.

I’ve been networking since elementary school. Selling lemonade with my big brother, Phil, in our front yard. Selling Girl Scout Cookies with troup members. Offering door-to-door white candles poured in tall glass containers with religious symbols on them at Christmastime for one organization or another to my gracious neighbors in one of the many states where I grew up.

An all-time favorite memory of mine is from high school is selling Krispy Kreme donuts standing in the median of a major intersection:  Airport Boulevard at Azalea Road in Mobile, Alabama. My high school cheerleader squad was raising money for uniforms and summer camp and competition. Our sponsor and cheer coach, Mrs. Mattie Shepard at Baker High School, expected hard work, our very best effort and high moral standards. She did not see our skin color. She saw talent, and potential. Mrs. Shepard instilled in each of us remarkable acumen we had no idea were receiving. (Today many of my squad mates are business owners or leaders in their communities.) Once the intersection was deemed too dangerous, we then sold those dozens of delicious “hot now” donuts to neighbors and friends. It was true network marketing, and no one made fun of us. Each summer, we achieved our goal, designed and had custom cheerleader uniforms made. Ours’ were always the sharpest looking uniforms each year at camp. I believe our parents were also grateful for not having to dish out their hard-earned money.

Those were days when parents did not sell items for their children. (At least mine did not, and I’m forever grateful.)

I learned how to…

have grit with a smile.

dress for success

maintain a positive mind-set

accept, “No.” and keep on trying.

set and reach short-term achievable goals.

appreciate diversity.

love my neighbor.

calculate profit and expenses…all before graduating from high school.

In college I taught cheerleader camps and traveled across the United States with other collegiate cheerleaders from the University of Georgia, Alabama State, Murray State, Kansas State, Furman, Michigan State, North Carolina and more.  We were a diverse crew of male and female athletes with a variety of hilarious dialects, talents, skill-sets, and wanderlust. To earn our extra spending money between paychecks we had a Popsicle Piggy Contest at each camp. This was my first experience earning commission-based income. Before each camp, as we traveled we would go to a grocery store and buy those freezer pops – the kind in the plastic sleeve that are not messy, and not yet frozen. We’d seek the best value and purchase hundreds. When we would arrive on a different college campus each week, we would respectfully ask the cafeteria director if we could store our freezer pops in their commercial freezer. They always replied, “Yes,” with a big grin on their face. Each hot summer day during the cheer camp, we’d take a mid-afternoon break to allow our customers – the middle and high school aged cheerleaders – cool off in the shade, hydrate and provide them the opportunity to buy freezer pops. We kept a tally of which cheer squad purchased the most popsicles and proudly presented that squad with the Popsicle Piggy Award on the last day of camp. Those girls were competitive at every level and thrilled if their squad won. It was a win-win for all parties involved.

I look back on each these experiences during my impressionable years and realize I was trained by adults who led by example. Each held a deep faith in God and stood on high moral ground.  They led in the same way Jesus taught and led his disciples and followers – with kindness, respect, resilience, and compassion. Jesus provided such remarkable leadership, communication skills, intelligence and purpose that word about him spread like wildfire by his followers. Some believed Jesus was the expected Messiah, others did not believe, yet Jesus’ network continues to grow. Is Jesus the ultimate example of a networker? For me, yes. What say you?