The first time I realized I was actually out on my own was my first year in college. I got sick with the flu thanks to the Midwest weather. I had missed classes for a couple days and Tylenol and soup just weren’t cutting it. I finally broke down and decided I needed a doctor. I happened to be talking to my parents on the phone and explained my situation. My mom chimed in and offered to make me a doctor’s appointment. The only problem was I was 3 hours from home and she had no idea of any doctor in my area. Its not that I was spoiled and incapable of completing such chores, this was just the first realization that it was all on me. I honesty don’t remember if I had the energy to find a doctor or not, but I lived nonetheless.

Years later, I have moved from college, this time much further that 3 hours away from home. I ended up on the other side of the country in an area where I had no friends and no family. So everything was new – and everything was on me. It was time to step up and grow up.

Its not that this was a treacherous experience or anything, but it just addresses the little issues in life we often times don’t think about. Our parents raise us. Their network is our network. We go to the same doctor for years. We take our car to the same mechanic because that’s what we have always done. But if you really want to fuel your independence, start a list of your own “go to” people.

I actually had a 20-minute conversation with “my butcher” today as we discussed the right cut of meat to use for my Italian beef sandwiches. That led to football, which turn led to the discovery of us being from that same area of the country and cheering for the same team. That small conversation turned a random trip to the store into a very friendly experience. I now have a connection, a “go to” person, that will give me their expertise as friend.

I’ve repeated this experience with doctors. A random pre travel exam prior to my trip to Costa Rica led to a connection with the doc. He loves Costa Rica and travels there often. I was privy to some local advice before my trip.

Mechanics are another great connection to make. I hate car trouble. I’d rather be punched in the face than have car problems. So any time I need to take my car into the shop I’m already on edge. I happened to make buddies with a local mechanic over beers at happy hour one day. His shop is very close to my house. I still hate car problems with a passion but its much less stressful knowing I can trust the person who will be doing the work.

Not only will these “go to” people make your life easier in most cases, but it will also make you a more well rounded person. You’ll be able to add some local flare to the next conversation you find yourself in.  And don’t be afraid to share your own expertise. You may end up being someone else’s “go to” person. And there is no better advertising and networking than this word-of-mouth style. It makes the world a friendlier place to do business.