Aerial view of Los Angeles via Jay Mantri

I hit the streets this past week. Caught the 134 to the 5 to the 110 and ended up in downtown LA. Took 45 minutes for the 15 miles, but it was worth it.

I missed my evening routine: walking my dog from 7:00pm – 7:30pm, but it was worth it. I missed dinner with my wife, 7:30pm – 8:00pm, but it was worth it. I missed the latest installment of ESPN’s stunning documentary O.J.: Made in America, but it was worth it.

It was worth it, because, after months of conference calls, emails, GoToMeeting calendar invites, and sitting behind my computer screen interacting with new business partners, we all met in person for the first time. IRL.

Sure, we spoke about work. Our partnership. Our strategy. Our tactics. We got things done. But more importantly, we realized we could trust each other. We enjoyed each other’s company. We put away our screens for a few hours and connected without the crutch of 4G or WiFi. We debated the greatest father-son duos in sports history: Griffey, Bonds, Manning, Hull, without using Google for “inspiration.” We found mutually shared connections, without using LinkedIn. Shared stories from our recent trips to Cuba or Israel, no TripAdvisor needed.

Technology seduces us to sit behind our screens, crane our necks down at our phones in our laps, and hope for the best. And we can often accomplish much through it’s awesome power. We can learn a lot. We can achieve success in work and life. But the screen experience can never compare to the real life experience. The webinar with a sales prospect almost never produces as much progress as the in-person pitch. A shared Chrome browser is fine, but a shared kale salad kafta kebab will almost always result in more business value in the long run.

The quick double tap on Instagram generating a “like” on your friend’s latest dog photo is not the same as a walk in the park with your labrador, Marley. It’s much easier to generate hearts on Instagram than it is to pick up shit with your hand inside a plastic bag, surely.

I love my screens – small, medium and large. Most of us do. But I believe that there is nothing better, nothing more powerful, than a human connection in real life that can help you get from Point A to Point B, specifically in business relationships.

And this past week, around a crowded dinner table, I had a nice subtle reminder, a nice whisper in the ear from an old friend (real life) that was still lingering in the background. I’m here. 

Now the challenge is to find a healthy balance.

One of the nicest guys in venture capital, Jonathon Triest, recently hired a new associate, Blake Robbins. It’s clear from Jonathon’s tweet above that Blake has already hit the ground running.

But let’s flashback about two years… Here’s the backstory to Blake landing his new gig. He reached out to Jonathon while an undergraduate at Michigan State, asking for an internship. He got the internship. Less than two years later, it turned into a full-time job.

For those of you who know my background, you’re thinking this is going to be another “power of experiential education,” sermon. Nope, though it could be. While data suggests that seven out of ten internships turn into a full-time job, Blake is where he is today through hustle. Chutzpah. Relentlessness.

It’s pretty simple, really. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. 

I wrote a blog post in 2014 on leveraging social media to get hired which Blake executed to perfection:

One of the benefits of social media is the access it has afforded those ‘on their way up’ to those with greater experience. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help… You may not receive a response a majority of the time, but when you do, it could lead to career guidance and growth.

Raising your hand is what separates the special ones from the normal ones. Blake may (or may not) be the most talented VC associate in all the land. But he hustled. He asked, he got.

And now, a month into his new role, he’s showing that same hustle and speed on the job as he did landing the job – 30 days later, his firm is already closing on a deal he sourced. Even if hustling doesn’t coarse through your veins like it does through Blake’s, asking is an important skill to practice and implement, specifically if you work in an entrepreneurial or startup role where bandwidth and other resources may be constrained.

Attending a SXSW panel in Austin where you really admire one of the speakers? Don’t just mention their advice on your Twitter account mid-panel to gain a few likes and retweets, queue up in a physical line at the end of their speech and introduce yourself. Authentically. Articulately. Humbly. Lunch at the food trucks can wait. Make that connection. Say hi, shake a hand. Offer something valuable. Get inspired further.

I’ve seen dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs who connected with legendary VC Fred Wilson through the comments section of his blog. They were authentic. They were articulate. They communicated well. They, like Blake, evidently had the talent.

Think outside the box, like Blake did. LA’s top VC, Mark Suster, recently responded to several entrepreneurs from Israel, Ghana, South Africa, and New Zealand on Snapchat. [Sidenote: It’s a blue ocean for Suster on Snapchat at the moment, there aren’t any other VCs that I am aware of that have the same love affair he does with the platform, and thus provide the same access that he has.]

And it’s not just the power of networking. We can ask more frequently in our personal lives as well. In line for an expensive root canal with your oral surgeon but don’t have great dental insurance? Ask for a discount – (almost) everything in life is negotiable. You just have to ask.

Of course, you will get turned down pretty frequently. Suster and Wilson are busy guys after all, and your oral surgeon has a family to feed. But what will surprise you is that your hit rate will be better than nil – which is what it would have been if you never asked at all.

The thing I love about entrepreneurship is that there is no shame in saying, “well that didn’t work out, let’s try something else.” The same is true when it comes to the ask.