Transcript: Why Have 500 Lunches With Strangers (EP37)
Brendan Rogers: Hello, everybody. I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast. This is Episode 37.
Today, I'm talking with Nick Bendel. Nick is the owner of Hunter & Scribe, a copywriting and content marketing agency that writes blogs, social media posts, emails, eBooks, and media releases for small businesses.
Nick publishes a daily marketing newsletter called Nick's Marketing Tips.
When he's not working, Nick is kept busy with his #500lunchesproject, which involves having lunch with 500 strangers in five years.
Nick also loves sport, reading, history, traveling, and public speaking.
The focus of our conversation today is Nick's journey to have 500 lunches with strangers.
Nick, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.
Nick Bendel: Thank you very much, Brendan. I have listened to every episode, so I'm delighted to now be a guest.
Brendan Rogers: Mate, it's absolutely fantastic to have you here. And thank you so much for traveling up from your neck of the woods in Sydney to the beautiful Central Coast.
Nick Bendel: This is a beautiful region. I think it's been maybe eighteen months since I've visited the Central Coast. So I'm glad to be here again.
Brendan Rogers: Don't make it another eighteen months. (Laughing) Mate, how about you give us a little bit of background on Nick Bendel and even Nick Bendel the boy?
Nick Bendel: Okay. Well, if we go back to my childhood, I had what at the time seemed like a really boring childhood. It was just a very normal, conventional staid upbringing, but now, I'm very glad that I had such a boring, uneventful, normal childhood and hello to my parents who I'm sure are going to be listening to this right now.
I went to school. When I finished school, I went to university and I studied journalism and I ended up becoming a journalist and I was a journalist for about ten years. And that eventually led me on to starting my business which is a copywriting and content marketing agency.
Brendan Rogers: You use that word ‘boring’. I would describe you as potentially boringly consistent. And I mean that in a very positive way. When I say that to you, what does that mean?
Nick Bendel: Well, I think you're right on both counts. I am boringly consistent. I'm someone who likes systems and routines. And one of the ways that manifests itself, and I think you're hinting at this Brendan, is for example, I publish daily videos. That's videos every single day, and I'm having lunch with 500 strangers in five years. I've got all these things I'm doing where I've built a system around it, and I'm just predictably and boringly plodding along.
Brendan Rogers: Mate, you are certainly doing your own thing and running your own race. And by no means is your content boring. You are boringly consistent in what you do, but your content is fantastic. Where do you come up with all these ideas?
Nick Bendel: Ah, now that is such a good question, Brendan, because in fact, let me take a little bit of a step back. I've been publishing daily videos for 15 or 16 months. So I've published maybe 450, something like that. I've recorded maybe 700. So there are lots that haven't been published yet. And so, I often get asked, “Nick, you've recorded hundreds of videos. How do you keep coming up with all these ideas?” But if you were to watch all the videos, all 700 videos from 1 through to 700, you would actually discover that there aren't that many ideas. There are maybe 10 ideas. And I just keep saying the same thing again and again and again, but I come up with fresh ways to repeat the old topics.
Brendan Rogers: You do, mate. And look, we'll let listeners know at the end of the show where they can learn a bit more about those sorts of things, but let's get into our topic - 500 lunches with strangers in 5 years. Why the bloody hell would you do that?
Nick Bendel: (Laughing) Well, I stole the idea off this amazing woman in Melbourne named Kaley Chu. And isn't it funny, Brendan, how one little thing can completely change your life? So it would have been in April 2019, I was on LinkedIn, just randomly scrolling through my feed. And I was connected to some woman in Melbourne named Kaley Chu. I knew nothing about her. I'd never met her. I'd never spoken to her. We connected six months earlier. I don't know why. And for those who are listening now, I'm from Sydney; Kaley’s from Melbourne. And Kaley did this post in April 2019, announcing that she had just finished a book. And the book was about how she'd had lunch with 100 strangers in 2018. And there was a link to a website and I was fascinated, and I clicked on the link. And there was some information about her book and I was immediately fascinated.
I thought, “Wow, a hundred lunches with strangers. What's that about?” So I immediately pulled out my wallet and I bought a copy of the book. And as it turned out, the book hadn't even been printed yet. I was one of the first people to pre-order a copy and it arrived a few weeks later. And I read this book and I was hooked from the first page. And one of the things Kaley explained in her book was when she started her lunches, she was very shy. But by the end, she'd become confident. She’d really improved her communication skills. She built an amazing network. So I thought, “I need to do the same.” And initially, I was just going to have 100 lunches like Kaley had done, but at some point in the book, Kaley mentioned that her lunches were so enjoyable and she was getting so much value from them that even after fulfilling her goal of having 100 lunches, she was continuing to have lunches with strangers. So I thought, “If I'm going to keep going past 100, why call it 100 lunches for strangers? Why not call it 500?” So that's why I'm having lunch with 500 strangers in five years.
Brendan Rogers: Mate, it's an unbelievable effort. And again, speaks to your character, just not doing things in halves. If you're going to do it, you're going to do it right. And you're going to do it, I wouldn’t say, better. But you're really going to put your whole heart and soul into it. What are the sort of value, what's the benefits that you've seen? You've done about 140 lunches already in the last couple of years. What are you seeing in yourself and your own growth through that process?
Nick Bendel: I've become a better communicator. I've become better at socialising. I've become a better listener. I've developed some more knowledge about human behaviour. And I've also built a really great network full of amazing people. For example, I remember the 7th person I met, a person named Brendan Rogers. And…
Brendan Rogers: Long, long time ago.
Nick Bendel: That was. That would have been in September 2019. And we hit it off, Brendan. We've become good friends and we've kept in touch. And that's why I've listened to every episode of your podcast. You were kind enough to let me know when you started it. And I've really enjoyed listening to the episodes. And it's led to this opportunity now where I'm lucky enough to be a guest.
Brendan Rogers: Thank you, mate. I certainly enjoyed it as well. I've just got to ask though, doing a bit of research on you, and I probably didn't realise at the time, but you have, there's a lot of foods you don't like. You've got a pretty narrow scope of food. What are the foods you do like?
Nick Bendel: (Laughing) Well, my Mum is going to be tearing her hair out as she listens to this. This is one of my Mum's great frustrations - that I dislike most foods. So I tend to steer clear of anything remotely sophisticated, anything having, with sauces, spices, vegetables. I tend to like very simple, bland food. I'm a meat and potatoes man. Toast with baked beans for me is a five-star meal.
Brendan Rogers: I have to say it again, boringly consistent. (Laughing) Mate, why do this? Why have 500 lunches with strangers?
Nick Bendel: Well, part of it was, as a personal growth project. I thought it would improve my social skills and my communication skills, which it has. I thought I'd met a lot of great people and build an amazing network. And I've certainly done that. And that's how you got to improve. And following on from those two things, I had this thought that it would somehow prove financially profitable as well. So, I don't try to turn any of these people into clients and I'm meeting a lot of people who could never be a client of my business. But I had this vague feeling that if I'm meeting all these people, and if I'm building an incredible network and if I'm developing much better social skills, that somehow, it will lead to some sort of opportunity somewhere at some point at some time. I don't know what that opportunity will look like, so that's another reason why I'm doing it.
And I count this as a great opportunity being on a podcast. It's not only enjoyable, but it's a really good learning opportunity for me because it means I can practice communicating. And if at some point in my life, for whatever reason, I appear on a, I don’t know, a commercial radio interview, or if I appear on TV, it means doing a podcast like this is fantastic practice.
So those were also part of the motivations, Brendan. I just wanted to become a better person and learn valuable skills, and hopefully, at some point, that will somehow translate into some sort of opportunity.
Brendan Rogers: Look, and I think it is definitely translating just in the work that you're doing and the consistency around everything you're doing. I've said it before that you and I have had lots of conversations over a period of time. But in your business and the content marketing agency and all this content you're creating, you're one of the few people I know. And I know a lot of people in that space and I know a lot of people in various businesses. You live and breathe what you do in your own business and how you help others. What's that driver around that?
Nick Bendel: I’ve always loved writing and reading and communicating. Therefore, it's natural that I should be putting out content every single day. The main reason I do it is to promote my company, but there is a side benefit for me personally, which is that I know that this again is a really good way to improve as a person. If I'm recording and publishing videos every day, that forces me to learn how to do videos. At the start, I was very self-conscious. I felt very clumsy working the equipment. I wasn't really sure how to do good videos, but just practice makes perfect. And now, I'm very, very comfortable in front of the camera. In terms of writing content, I've been writing for years so I'm very comfortable with that. But when you write for social media, that's a different form of writing. It's generally shorter and sharper. And again, by writing every day, that forces you to learn new skills. So part of the day-after-day-after-day content publishing, it's mostly to promote the business, but it's partly also to grow as a person.
Brendan Rogers: It sounds like you're actually living out your passion in your work. Is that right?
Nick Bendel: It is right, Brendan. I love what I do. I feel really lucky. And my company, we sell writing. So it would be a bit odd if we didn't practice what we preach.
Brendan Rogers: I'm asking a lot of why's, and the reason I’m asking a lot of why's is because I'm really fascinated with what's inside your head. Most people, if they're going on this networking journey and they want to build a network, they're probably going to go out to lots of networking events and all that sort of stuff. Why didn't you do that as opposed to doing, making this decision around 500 lunches?
Nick Bendel: The reason being, I've got nothing against networking events. Networking events can be wonderful, but I wanted to meet people one-on-one because I think you can build a deeper connection that way. And also, I feel a lot more comfortable one-on-one. I've never felt very comfortable in big groups, maybe because I'm an introvert. I feel more comfortable one-on-one. So I've gone about this journey meeting one person at a time. So far, as you mentioned earlier, I've met 140 people and I've made some really good connections with dozens of people that I wouldn't have been able to make if I was meeting these people in a large networking group.
Brendan Rogers: As we said earlier, you've done about 140 so far. That's a lot to put in the memory bank and there's a lot more to come. Is there one or two that particularly stand out for you? I know they're all very special in their own, right? But is there one or two that maybe really stick in your mind for a certain reason, good or bad?
Nick Bendel: I had lunch, it was lunch 130 with Stephen York who used to head up the New South Wales (NSW) police hostage negotiation unit. And that was fascinating. I asked him so many questions about what it's like to be a hostage negotiator. And I thought, for sure, he's going to refuse to answer some of them or a lot of them, but Steve was so generous. He just answered question after question after question. That was fascinating. That was, I think my most enjoyable lunch.
And some of the others that stand out, I met this wonderful woman named Kitty Parker who's a buyer's agent and she's an incredible person, Kitty. She's very smart. And she's had some challenges she's had to overcome in her life. She's very, very strong. She's built two very, very successful businesses. And the reason my lunch with Kitty stands out, we had a great time. We really hit it off. And at some point, we looked at each other, and we mutually acknowledge, “Okay, it's probably time to end the lunch now. We've both got to go back and work.” And I thought in my mind, we'd been there one-and-a-half, maybe two hours. As I found out later, she thought the same. And then, we went and I looked at my watch and we'd been there almost five hours, but we just hit it off so well. And the conversation was so interesting and had so much depth to it. And I've had other great lunches too, but those are the two that probably stand out the most.
Brendan Rogers: Let's dive into the logistics and the practicalities of this. Where do you find these people? And how do you find these people? How do you set that up?
Nick Bendel: Generally, I find these people on LinkedIn. Some of them are referred to me. For example, Brendan, you kindly referred me to Joey Peter's, the 102nd person I had lunch with. Joey was wonderful. Stephen York, the hostage negotiator I mentioned earlier, I thought it would be really interesting to meet a hostage negotiator. So I did a Google search for hostage negotiator, Sydney. And his name came up, and then I couldn't find his LinkedIn profile, but I did track down his phone number through a Google search. So I just cold called him. And to my surprise, he wanted to meet me. And sometimes, I might send an email to someone, but 95% of my guests have come through a LinkedIn message.
Brendan Rogers: I'd like you to share something that I read about you. And it was about a chap called Adam Goodes. Tell me a little bit about that story.
Nick Bendel: That's a really interesting story, Brendan, because we spoke earlier about why I was doing this 500 lunches journey and what I've learned. And one of the things that I've learnt, and one of the areas where I've improved is I've become more proactive and I've taken more control over my life. And actually, Steve York, the hostage negotiator, who I cold called, before I started this 500 lunches journey, “I would never have done anything like that.” It would have seemed too scary or I would've thought to myself, “What right do I have to do that?” And the Adam Goodes’ story, I showed up to lunch number 35. It was Castlereagh Street in the centre of Sydney. And I was about 15 minutes early. And I walked into the restaurant. And then, I saw this bloke sitting alone at a table. And it was Adam Goodes. And I'm a big Sydney Swans supporter so I've always loved Adam Goodes.
And in the past, before I started this 500 lunches journey, I wouldn't have done anything. But by meeting these people, I strengthened my mindset and I'd realise, “It never hurts to ask, so why not just ask the question?” So I walked up to him and I said, “Excuse me, Adam. My name's Nick. I'm in the process of having lunch with 500 strangers in five years. I was wondering, do you want to have lunch with me?” And then, when Adam replied, I suddenly realised that I'd phrased my question poorly because he thought I meant, “Do you want to have lunch then and there?” So he replied, “Sorry. I'm waiting to meet my wife and my child.” And I wanted to tell him, “No, no, no, Adam. I didn't mean right now. I'm actually waiting to meet someone else also. I meant, do you want to have lunch at another point?”
But I thought, if he's waiting to meet his family, I don't want to get into some argument with him. So I said, “Of course, Adam. Thank you for your time.” And then, I went to walk off and then he stopped me and he pointed at me, and he said, “But I like your idea,” which was very nice of him. I've got this feeling that I'm going to bump into him again at some point on my 500 lunches journey. This time, I'm going to phrase my question slightly differently. It would be great to have lunch with him, but whether he, whether I do meet him or I don't, whether I do have lunch with him or I don't, I like this story because it reflects the way that my mindset has improved by going on this journey and meeting so many high-value people.
Brendan Rogers: Did Adam know, by any chance, that your favourite movie is Brokeback Mountain?
Nick Bendel: He didn't know that. Maybe, if we'd had lunch, he would have discovered that. Adam, if you're listening to this podcast, is he a subscriber, Brendan? Reach out to me.
Brendan Rogers: I have no idea. (Laughing)
Nick Bendel: (Laughing) It would be great to have lunch. And I could tell him all about Brokeback Mountain during our lunch.
Brendan Rogers: Mate, it’s a great story of, you said things that you wouldn't have done previously. Is that sort of 20 seconds of courage, or even just 10 seconds of courage. What are some other things that in this journey so far that you felt you've developed in and you've taken into your own life, whether it be personal, about your business, and it's really helped you move in the direction that you want to move?
Nick Bendel: One lesson I've learned, and I think it was from a bloke named Ronnie, who I think was the 69th person I had lunch with. And Ronnie was a really good conversationalist, such a nice guy and one of these people you just instantly feel comfortable with. And he mentioned that when he meets someone and he's trying to build rapport with them, he lets them talk about whatever they want to talk about. It helps them feel comfortable and helps build rapport. And I think I'd already been doing that unconsciously, but once Ronnie articulated it for me, ever since then, I've been much more consciously aware of it. And now, when I meet someone, I make a point of talking about what they want to talk about. So, for example, Brendan, during this interview, I'm sure you're going to crap on about Liverpool and I'll just let you, because I know that'll make you feel good.
Brendan Rogers: Thank you.
Nick Bendel: (Laughing) So that's one thing that I've consciously learned and added to my life. I'm grateful to Ronnie for teaching me that.
Brendan Rogers: Another thing I've noticed just during this interview is your recollection of guests related to number of lunches. I'm starting to lose track and I've only recorded about 37 episodes now. And I start to lose count of where people were in, what number of episode. How are you maintaining that so well or seem to maintain it so well?
Nick Bendel: I'm a numbers guy. Funnily enough, I'm a words guy, but I'm also a numbers guy. Numbers have always appealed to me. So I think that's the reason. And sometimes, I'll just reminisce in my head about the people I've met. I'm like, “Oh, Brendan, number seven. I really enjoyed that lunch.” And I think that's why I remember the numbers. I'm going to quickly test you, Brendan. Who was your 18th podcast interview with?
Brendan Rogers: I should turn around and say, “Nick, I'm asking the questions (laughing) and I'm going to be, ‘I can't remember. Who was it, Nick?’ ”
Nick Bendel: I don’t know. (Laughing) But you know, Glenn McGrath can remember every one of his wickets. So if you say to him, number 362, he will not only tell you who he dismissed. He remembers the date, the ground, and also how he dismissed them. That's an incredible memory.
Brendan Rogers: That is unbelievable, isn't it? Probably why I was never a bowler. I couldn't remember my 18th wicket. (Laughing) Mate, I want to just ask you around, we've talked a bit about obviously the lunches and the process around that a bit and how you're finding people. Why is it important generally to build a network? Because that's actually what you're doing. We know that. Why is that important to you individually, personally, connecting with these sorts of people?
Nick Bendel: There are two reasons. One reason is that you learn a lot from people in your network and the bigger your network, and the more diverse it is, the more learning opportunities you have. And the second reason is people in your network can connect you to opportunities. For example, you were kind enough to connect me to Joey Peterson and I had a really interesting lunch with Joey who's a wonderful person. And there are other people who have connected me to business opportunities or to interesting personal opportunities. I feel like the larger our networks, the more success we can have in life.
Brendan Rogers: Is there a story that you could share that's played out for you and helped your business, let’s say?
Nick Bendel: I know that, in fact, one of my clients, Paul, who's a wonderful person. I remember meeting Paul six years ago, back when I was a journalist before I started the company. And he was someone who was providing information to them. And I was someone who was publishing his information. So we both had a mutual interest in getting to know each other and building the reputation and we got on well.
But also, there was an element of self-interest. I wanted to maintain the relationship. So he would keep sending me the information. He wanted to maintain the relationship. So I would keep giving his company free publicity. And then, I left that job. He left his job. But we'd obviously both made an impression on each other. Four years later, he happened to contact me out of the blue and said, “Let's have lunch.” And because we'd always gotten on so well, it felt like a natural thing to do. And he since become a client and he's a great client. He's just so easy to work for. And he's so professional. And he has also become a great referral partner. He's sent seven or eight clients my way, which I'm really grateful for. And it was all because both of us took the time to build a relationship with each other. Yes, there was an element of self-interest, but we also genuinely cared about the other person. And I think that's why the relationship has been so strong and mutually beneficial.
Brendan Rogers: Is it true that Kaley is also a very, very happy client of yours, Hunter & Scribe?
Nick Bendel: (Laughing) I think you may have read her testimonial. (Laughing)
Brendan Rogers: (Laughing) I may have.
Nick Bendel: Kaley is a wonderful person. I didn't try to turn Kaley into a client, but just from getting to know each other and building the relationship, Kaley, at some point, needed help with some writing. Kaley's a good writer, but she's incredibly busy. So she needed to dump that problem on someone else. So my company helped her with that. Because we'd both built a relationship and gotten to know each other without any intention of trying to get anything from the other person, it meant that that trust was there. And she felt like she could trust me to do the job for her. And I felt like I could trust her to be a good client, someone who would be good to work with, which indeed is the case. She's an amazing person and a dream to work with.
Brendan Rogers: This is probably a bit of a facetious question and it's not even really a question. Maybe, it's a rhetorical question but, isn't it amazing how so much is supported by the quality of relationships?
Nick Bendel: Absolutely. And that's something that I had an understanding of this before I began the journey, which is why I wanted to meet so many people. But it's one thing to have a theoretical understanding of something, it's another thing to actually experience it. We all know that being bitten by a shark is bad, but you don't know how bad it is until the shark bites you.
This is the opposite. It's something that's good, but you don't realise just how valuable relationships are until you build all these relationships. And thanks to all these relationships I've built, it's benefited my business, but it's also made me a better person. And it's enriched my life in that way too.
Brendan Rogers: I wasn't going to ask you about Toastmasters but you just mentioned sharks. And we know that people would rather get bitten by a shark than speak in front of people. That's what the stats say anyway, apparently. Toastmasters is another part of your journey that you're really excelling in. How has something like that helped you in combination with the whole 500 lunches scenario that you're going through?
Nick Bendel: I used to be terrified of public speaking. I realised though that public speaking was such an important skill to learn. So I forced myself to do something about it. And a bit over four years ago, I joined Toastmasters. Through learning at Toastmasters and through practicing speaking at Toastmasters, I've now become a good speaker and I feel comfortable in front of the camera. But if I hadn't have done that, I don't know if I would have felt comfortable doing this interview. I definitely wouldn't have felt comfortable doing the daily videos that I do. And maybe, I wouldn't have felt comfortable meeting all these strangers. Joining Toastmasters has really helped me develop as a communicator and as a person. And I guess that means that I've got more confidence to not only have lunch with these strangers, but then also to communicate effectively with them when I do meet them.
Brendan Rogers: And I have to say, I had the ‘uhm and ah’ counter here. I've not had to touch it. (Laughing) You're doing so well.
Nick Bendel: For those who don't know, one of the things you do at Toastmasters is during a meeting, someone will record how many times everyone says “uhm” or “ah” or uses other filler words.
Brendan Rogers: I’ve just done too.
Nick Bendel: (Laughing) I used to be bad at it. But through joining Toastmasters, and realising how many of these filler words I was using, I was able to little bit by little bit, phase it out of my speaking.
Brendan Rogers: You said something to me before we even started recording, which I find really interesting as well, but it was really around self-confidence. How have you thought in your own mind that your level of being able to speak confidently and project some confidence, how do you think that has put you in the frame of mind for others, how others have seen you?
Nick Bendel: This is such a great question, especially on a leadership podcast, because one of the things I've noticed is that if you speak, everyone immediately sees you as a leader, because when you're speaking, you are elevating yourself just naturally. Sometimes, you're literally elevating yourself by getting onstage. And that also has a psychological impact on people. When you speak, people see you as a leader, and it then means that because, in their unconscious mind, they regard you as a leader, it means unconsciously, they're now attaching more significance to your words. Your words now seem more meaningful and more intelligent. If you were delivering those same words in a completely different setting, and they might very well ignore your words. But the mere fact of delivering those words as a speaker means that those words are now seen as more significant. And the reason is that as a speaker, you're seen as a leader and as a leader, you're seen as being more powerful, more important, more intelligent. So I didn't realise this when I started my speaking journey, Brendan, but by becoming a speaker, in many people's eyes, I've also become a leader.
Brendan Rogers: Great leaders understand their vulnerabilities as well. What mistakes have you made in this process of 500 lunches so far?
Nick Bendel: Hmm, that is a good question. No one's ever asked me that. I think, maybe, I haven't opened up enough to some people. One thing that's interesting, I've always been more of a listener than a talker, and I really am interested in the people I meet. And I'm really interested to hear their stories. And because I'm listening and because, often, people like telling their stories, it means that people often really, really open up to me. And they'll just tell me all these things. And I've had so many people tell me, “Oh, Nick, I've never told anyone that,” or “Nick, I usually don't tell people these things until I've known them for a long time,” or “Nick, only three other people know this thing.” But then, I've also noticed that some people, and they've never told this to me directly, at some point, during the lunch, they almost feel resentful because they feel like they've told me so much, but I haven't told them nearly enough. It feels to them as if I've sucked out their soul. And I haven't given anything back to them. So that's taught me that I probably need to be more open with some of the people I'm having lunch with. I think that helps build trust. And I guess part of being open involves being vulnerable.
Brendan Rogers: Yeah. Once again, it's a great point. And actually not something I've really thought about myself is that I always consider myself more of a listener than a speaker when, especially when I'm meeting people. But I guess it's like anything. You can do too much of the one thing. And even that can be bad. So even too much listening maybe can give a different perception.
Have you had any direct feedback around that within the 500 lunches where somebody has just really said, “Hey, Nick”? You used the term ‘sucking the soul’, but maybe, they perceived you in a different way because you've been so focused on just learning about them as opposed to having some balance in the communication, can I say?
Nick Bendel: No one's ever said anything to me directly, but I can tell a few people have felt uncomfortable with it at a certain point in the lunch because they feel like it's unfair, or maybe, they feel unconsciously, like, I've got some sort of agenda. Why Nick are you trying to get all this information from me? I think it's generally an unconscious feeling, but they just, they're not sure why, but they somehow feel uncomfortable with it. One of the lunches I remember well, the 21st person, I met a bloke named Glendon who's such a great guy. And the reason this one stands out is Glendon also is very much a listener rather than a talker. He's a really nice guy and a great listener. And he asks great questions. And what was funny, there were these long pauses during our lunch because both of us were instinctively waiting for the other person to say something. And during that lunch, I got a sense of what it might be like to have lunch with me because I kept waiting for him to say something and he was waiting for me to talk. And there were times it felt uncomfortable.
Brendan Rogers: Well, that's fascinating to hear. How did you approach that then?
Nick Bendel: I would then think, “Oh, I guess I better say something now.” And I would just blurt something out and often, it would feel like a silly thing to say, but I felt like I needed to say something. I felt like it was my turn, and Glendon, I should point out, is a really nice guy and he had no ulterior motive at all. He's just a listener and he genuinely cared about me and he wanted to get to know me. That's why he was doing it. But it did give me a sense of why some people might be uncomfortable if they're the ones doing all the talking.
Brendan Rogers: Our interview will continue after this.
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Brendan Rogers: That question you asked me earlier about the 18th episode, it was Matt Sharp.
Nick Bendel: (Laughing)
Brendan Rogers: I did have to look it up, I'm sorry. (Laughing)
Nick Bendel: (Laughing) Don't apologise to me. Apologise to him.
Brendan Rogers: Oh, Matt. Sorry, mate. I know you're listening as well. Thank you, buddy.
On that frame of mistakes, mate, again, having met with so many people so far, and still more to go. And the networking you've done in that process and outside of that, what are some of the common mistakes that you see other people making that you've learned along the way that maybe you can help them understand more?
Nick Bendel: One of the big mistakes is not doing it at all. I used to be in that camp myself so I can relate to that mistake. The second big mistake is doing networking with a very short-term and self-centred mindset. So, “I'm meeting Brendan today. I need to get something out of Brendan. Otherwise, it's a waste of time. So, at some point, I'm going to steer the conversation in such a way that I can try to get something out of Brendan.” And I understand why people do that, and I don't hold it against people for doing that. But the problem is if I had met you or when you met me, if we had treated each other like that, we wouldn't have built a relationship that we’ve built. We've built the relationship that we've built, because we genuinely tried to get to know each other. And we weren't trying to get any money or favours out of each other.
One of the big mistakes people make is they see these meetings or these relationships as a transaction. But when you treat the other person in that way, they feel uncomfortable. And ironically, the best way to get things out of other people is not to try to get things out of other people. Because once you’ve built the relationship and they feel that they like you, and they know you and they trust you, they might naturally come to you. So we spoke earlier about Kaley Chu who inspired my journey and who was actually the very first person I had lunch with who's an amazing person. And we built a good relationship. Had we not built that relationship, she wouldn't have become a client. Had I tried to get something out of her, she would not have become a client because she would have thought, “I can't trust this guy. This guy, he's selfish. He doesn't really care about me.” I understand why people try to quickly get things out of people they meet. But if you take that transactional approach to networking, your networking isn't going to be successful.
Brendan Rogers: Have you ever felt that in any of your 140 lunches that you're having lunch with somebody that has displayed those sorts of characteristics?
Nick Bendel: There was one lunch with a woman who was very nice. I got this feeling. I don't know why, that she was trying to get something out of me. I don't know if I was correct or incorrect. She actually never asked for anything during the lunch. And she's never asked for anything since. So I may very well have misjudged her. That was the only time I felt like someone was trying to get something out of me.
Brendan Rogers: I also know from the lunch we had and certainly reading various blogs and following your journey, there would be so much advice that you would have received or so many thoughts about things that you could do, change differently through this process. Has there ever been a time where you've given advice to other people that has really helped them when you've met them?
Nick Bendel: I didn't realise until you asked the question, Brendan, but that's actually another thing I've learned - how to give advice to people or at least how to help people help themselves. I've realised that when people have problems, and people will often discuss their problems during these lunches, they often already know the answers to their questions and they already know how to solve their problem. And I've discovered the best way to give them advice is actually just to let themselves give themselves the advice. So rather than me saying, Brendan, “I think you should do X or Y,” I've learnt that it's much better just to ask you the questions that help you maybe remove the blockages that exist that stop you seeing the solution that's already there. And I have discovered that with a few people just by asking questions like these, you can help them achieve the breakthrough that they want to achieve.
Brendan Rogers: It sounds like you actually should start a Hunter & Scribe consulting business or coaching business as well.
Nick Bendel: I don't want to compete with you, Brendan. (Laughing) Well, that's taking a genuine interest in the other person. Often, these people, we hit it off and that's why they might tell me about their problem. And I genuinely want to help them. And I've learned that me saying, “Oh, Brendan, I've got the solution. Do X.” That's probably not the best way to approach it because you might feel defensive or you might feel like, “Oh, no. I've already tried that,” or like, “What does Nick know?” Whereas, if I get you to solve your own problem and you generally already know the solution, you really then embrace the solution because it's yours rather than mine.
Brendan Rogers: What I want to move to mate is personal branding because you are building a personal brand. You've built a personal brand, and that's going to continue to grow and grow and grow as you keep doing what you're doing. Why is that important for you?
Nick Bendel: Everyone needs a personal brand. If you have a business like I do, a personal brand can help you attract clients or referral partners or advocates. If you're an employee, a personal brand can help you get headhunted. It can help you get internal promotions. It can help you get new opportunities. We spoke earlier about how, when you're a leader or when you're perceived as a leader, people see you as more significant, more intelligent. They want to give you things because you're a leader. I feel as though anyone with a personal brand, they are regarded as leaders. And that naturally means that they attract more opportunities. So I think whether you're a business owner or an employee, having a strong, personal brand means you are going to have more success and more opportunities.
Brendan Rogers: For somebody who is maybe not keen to start doing 100, 50, 500, a thousand lunches with people, what would you recommend to somebody who's maybe just starting out? You've just outlined a little bit about the importance of a personal brand. How do you think they should start?
Nick Bendel: The way you build a personal brand is by establishing some sort of point of difference, and by making sure that that point of difference reflects your personality. You can achieve those two objectives without having lunch with strangers or without publishing videos on social media. You can perhaps do written posts or you can perhaps have Zoom conversations with people. Do something that you're comfortable with. As long as it fulfils those two objectives of helping you differentiate yourself and reflecting your personality, I think you can build a strong personal brand even if you feel you're not the most outgoing of people. And the other point I'll make, Brendan, is the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. You don't need to eat the entire elephant in one mouthful. You just need to take one little step at a time. And once you take one small step, that can encourage you to take another.
Brendan Rogers: You mentioned Zoom. The world's been a bit of a crazy place of late, I suppose, with pandemic and all this sort of stuff. And this word pivot has come up a lot as well. How did you pivot with your 500 lunches during a time where it wasn't able to actually meet people in a restaurant or a cafe or whatever?
Nick Bendel: My first 66 lunches were face-to-face, but then, we went into lockdown. And then, my next 30 or so lunches were over video. They were all good lunches. The minor disadvantage of having a video lunch with someone is that it's not as intimate as meeting someone face-to-face so you don't build the same quality of relationship, but the big advantage is you can meet people from anywhere. For my face-to-face lunches, I was meeting people only in Sydney, but for those 30 lunches that I had by video, I was able to meet people outside Sydney. I met a couple of people and in fact, three people overseas. I met people in Melbourne and also in Perth who I wouldn't have been able to meet, if not for the pivot that coronavirus forced me to make.
Brendan Rogers: You've got about 360 lunches to go if my mathematics. You're the numbers, man. I'm good? I'm getting the thumbs up. Fantastic. So 360 lunches to go. Have you got somebody, apart from Adam Goodes, who you really want to have lunch with?
Nick Bendel: No individual, but more types of people. I'm trying to meet people from a really broad cross section of life. I would like to meet a magician. I would love to ask a magician, “How do you become a magician? And what's that like?” I would love to meet a fighter pilot. I did want to meet a funeral director. I was able to meet one of them through my network actually. Thank you to Therese. And thank you to Carly, the funeral director. I would also like to have lunch with a homeless person. I would like to understand what it's like to be homeless. So not any specific individual apart from Adam Goodes, of course. More types of people.
Brendan Rogers: Well, for people listening out there, you've heard the type of people that Nick's after. So if you can help, please get in contact with myself or Nick and he'll share his contact details at the end of the show but getting contact and lets help make it happen. Are you on target to do 500 lunches in five years?
Nick Bendel: As a numbers guy, Brendan, it is very important to me that I am on target. I'm actually ahead of target, I'm pleased to say. 500 in 5 years means a hundred a year or two a week. And I'm a little bit ahead of schedule.
Brendan Rogers: Well done, mate. How important is that process of breaking down? You said the elephant, eat one bite at a time, but from a business perspective, and being a leader in your business.
Nick Bendel: I've noticed that people can get overwhelmed by goals that seemed too large. One of the objections that I hear from people when it comes to meeting all these strangers is, “Oh my God, how am I going to meet so many people?” But you don't need to meet all of them at once. You just need to meet one at a time.
I had coffee with someone earlier this week and she asked me how she could build her personal brand and attract clients. And I said, you need to publish content every single day. And you could see the thought of that was just overwhelming to her because it just felt like she had to do this enormous thing. But as I said to her, “You don't have to do it all at once. You just need to go one day at a time. You just need to take one bite off the elephant at a time.” If we can break big goals or big tasks down into smaller elements, I almost said ‘elephants’, (laughing) they're much more manageable because psychologically, they feel much easier.
Brendan Rogers: Talking about personal brand, Nick, and you've got a personal brand. The way I look at that is you are successful in your personal brand when you have clarity around what that is and when people are talking to you about, and they're using words that you resonate with and think, “Yes, that's working.” So I want you to describe, share with us. What do you want people to say about Nick Bendel in reference to him as a person, his personal brand?
Nick Bendel: That's a really good question. The reason I say that is because when I started building a personal brand, I was aware that the stronger it was, the more it would benefit me, but I wasn't clear on how I wanted people to perceive me. I knew I wanted more people to be aware of me, but I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted them to think about me. As I've become more knowledgeable about personal branding and as I've become more practiced at it, I've realised that there is a way that I want people to perceive me. I want them to see me as knowledgeable in my particular field, which is writing, marketing, communications, networking. I also want them to see me as friendly and trustworthy and approachable and genuine. So I hope that with the content that I publish, which is a mix of videos where I'm giving people marketing tips, and written posts where I'm talking about my lunches, I hope that people are getting this feeling about me, that I am knowledgeable and trustworthy and genuine.
Brendan Rogers: I want to move across and start to wrap this up a bit around some advice. But before we move into the advice, I want to know what impact are you trying to have on this world?
Nick Bendel: None. I'm not someone who thinks about a legacy or trying to impact others. I have my own personal goals and things I want to achieve for myself. But I don't have any particular desire to impact the world or other people.
Brendan Rogers: Let's move to advice then ‘cause I reckon you've got a heap of that. What sort of advice do you want to give people listening today, hearing your story and whether it be building their network, personal brand attached to that, whether it just be something in business you've learnt over time, what advice do you want to give people just to get them started on their own personal journey?
Nick Bendel: We've spoken, Brendan, about networking and leadership. And these two things go hand-in-hand. One of the things I've learnt and I've been surprised by this is just the mere act of contacting people and inviting them to lunch makes those people see you as a leader. I've been really surprised by this. And so many of the people I've met have been very successful business people, people who have achieved far more than me, people who are above me and yet they see me as a leader just for contacting them and for inviting them out to lunch. And I've also been surprised to learn that many of these successful people feel a bit intimidated meeting a stranger for lunch, not me personally, just any stranger. And I continue to be surprised by this because I think, “Wow, you're a CEO of this or you're a Director of that. And you've had a great career and you've had all this success and you're still nervous about meeting someone.”
And the reason I mentioned this is because I would say to the listeners, “If you're feeling nervous about meeting a stranger, I can almost guarantee that the stranger you might think of contacting, they're probably also nervous, but they're going to admire you for contacting them. They're not going to look down on you. They're going to look up on you. It doesn't mean they're going to say yes, but they're going to really admire you for doing it. And they're actually going to see you as a leader.” The fears that we all have inside our heads, “What are people going to think? What are they going to say?” Well, we're not the only ones thinking that way. The people we might want to network with, they're also thinking the same way.
My advice would be, “Just contact people. And you'll be surprised by how positively they think about you, just because you did contact them.”
Brendan Rogers: What does the future look like for Nick Bendel the leader?
Nick Bendel: That's interesting because even though I've realised that people have started to see me as a leader, I've never really thought of myself that way. I am a leader in my company as a business owner and I have staff and I have to lead them, but I still don't see myself as a leader. So maybe, if we're talking about Nick Bendel the leader, maybe, it's for me to become more comfortable with the idea of being a leader. And it's also to become a better leader. I think regularly about what my staff think about me and how they perceive me. Am I inspiring them? Am I communicating well with them? Do they feel I'm helping them? Do they feel I'm a good boss? Do they feel like they want to stay with my company for the long term?
I would like to become a better leader or maybe a more knowledgeable leader so I can better inspire those who I am leading.
Brendan Rogers: Well said, mate. The toughest question of all, how can people get hold of you? (Laughing)
Nick Bendel: Two ways they can connect with me. On LinkedIn, I'm very, very active on LinkedIn. Or they can email me email@example.com.
Brendan Rogers: Your level of commitment to relationships in just by coming up to the Central Coast, I know it's a great place to come. Lots of people want to be here, but I know even if we were going into some dodgy back corner office somewhere, and you make the commitment to come up, sit here and have a good chat with me, I really appreciate that.
You've got so much knowledge to share. There's going to be so much more that you're going to learn and take from people over the course of your journey with 500 lunches. I can attest to, friendliness, approachable, trustworthy, all those things. So I think you're definitely living and breathing your personal brand, mate, so you are certainly a leader in your own right without a shadow of a doubt.
Mate, I want to thank you again. Thank you for being such an avid listener of the podcast. You've also given me great feedback to help my own interviewing skills. So I hope I've done that feedback proud in this episode. Mate, thanks for being a guest on The Culture of Things podcast.
Nick Bendel: Thank you very much, Brendan. I've really enjoyed it.
Brendan Rogers: “I didn't see myself as a leader.” These were Nick's words. The best leaders don't. They just get on with the business of being consistent with whatever they believe in and the path they're on. They run their own race, worry little for distractions that come up, furiously cheer on others, and take great pride and satisfaction in helping people grow and develop. This describes Nick Bendel exactly. Keep an eye on Nick. He is a special person who will succeed in anything he puts his mind to.
These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Nick.
My first key takeaway. Leaders are boringly consistent. High-performing people and high performing teams consistently do the basics well. They make decisions on what their high-performing actions and habits are. Break them down into bite-sized chunks and do them consistently. Decide what daily actions you must take to achieve what you want to achieve and be boringly consistent about doing them.
My second key takeaway. Leaders build strong networks. As they say, your network is your net worth. The larger your network, the more learning and the more opportunities will arise, whether they be personal or business. The larger your network, the more success you will have in life. Leaders understand the importance of this and take action to build strong networks.
My third key takeaway. Leaders ask good questions. When you ask good questions, people end up helping themselves. They often already know the answers to their problems. And by asking questions, you can help tease it out of them. Leaders take a genuine interest in people. And by doing this, it leads to asking good questions.
So in summary, my three key takeaways were: leaders are boringly consistent, leaders build strong networks, leaders ask good questions.
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Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time.
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