I was probably 12 years old when I first read How to Win Friends and Influence People. Now, I agree that it might be a weird book choice for a pre-teen, but the title caught my eye at a second-hand market and I thought it was such a weird thing to write a whole book about. You don't 'learn' how to make friends, you just… do it?
So I bought, read it, and then even pushed my mother to read it too because I thought it was so funny. It wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I found out the book was actually an international bestseller.
Then I realized that I'd actually been subconsciously following the advice 12-year-old Boris found laughable: being generous with praise, showing genuine interest in other people, making an effort to remember names, quickly acknowledging my mistakes, and so forth.
This realization opened me up to discovering more 'laughably basic' truths in books, which was right around the time I found Never Eat Alone. Written by a master networker, it contains funny anecdotes and useful tips on how to conduct business like a pro. I devoured it and have been recommending it ever since.
The biggest lesson I learned was infuriatingly simple: dinners are good.
Sure, I of course enjoyed going out to eat with friends, but I never appreciated the power of inviting people I barely knew over and creating a new, shared experience.
The first time I remember hosting a 'real' dinner was in art school. I was incredibly impressed with my teacher, so I took the plunge and invited her and her daughter over for dinner along with a friend of mine.
I was ecstatic they all accepted... and then promptly panicked because my cooking skills were extremely limited.
But I managed. And although the food probably wasn't very impressive, the conversations we had were amazing and I ended becoming good friends with my teacher. I often joined her for dinner at her house and even house-sat for her when she and her family went on holiday.
This clumsy yet genuine start to my dinner parties ended up paying dividends down the line.
Years later, when I had started my first company, the CEO of a billion-dollar company reached out to me and asked me if I knew of companies in the Netherlands using their product, and whether I could recommend a restaurant to meet for dinner.
I told him I could help him create a guestlist easily, and recommend 'Chez Boris' for dinner.
That evening I prepared dinner for 20 people and managed to make a lasting impression on an incredibly influential CEO. We've kept in touch since then, and I always visit him when I'm in San Francisco — but I'd never been able to do that if I hadn't taken the leap and hosted dinners back at school.
So long story short: if you feed people they won't forget you. That's why…