The Genesis of Business Networking

I’m a long-time member of BNI, Business Network International, the world’s largest and most effective business networking organization. Every week, I trade referrals with members of Ann Arbor West chapter but I give referrals to members of other chapters as well when I can, and I receive referrals from them. “Givers Gain” is BNI’s philosophy.

So I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to help fellow members grow their businesses. I look for referrals everywhere—from family members, friends, members of social, political, religious, and spiritual organizations to which I belong, restaurants where I set up my laptop and work all day. Everyone in the world can be helped by the services and products provided by businesses that belong to BNI and I aim to find them and connect them.

BNI founder Ivan Misner developed the science of network marketing. But he didn’t invent network marketing. It’s been going on for a long time.

I didn’t realize how long until I was sitting at the table at my family’s Passover Seder.

Passover is the holiday during which Jews the world over retell the story of our ancestors’ slavery in Egypt and their liberation through God’s divine will. It takes us from the selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers, to his rise to power in Egypt, the birth of Moses our greatest prophet, Pharoah’s decree to drown all newborn Hebrew males, Moses’ salvation through sister Miriam’s quick thinking, his soft life as an Egyptian prince, his reconnection with his Hebrew roots after he talks to a burning bush while in exile in the desert, his battle of wits with the next-generation Pharoah that produces the ten plagues of Egypt, the Hebrews’ escape across the Red Sea, life as wanderers in the desert, and God’s giving of the Ten Commandments.

It is the only major Jewish holiday that is observed around the family dinner table rather than at Temple.

The Seder is the dinner that is laden with prayers and traditions every step of the way. Non-Jews will recognize the Seder as Jesus’ Last Supper. It is one of my favorite days of the year. I put business interests aside and celebrate with the family: good schmoozing, good vibes, and lots of wine and chocolates along with the dietary changes that come from not allowing any leavened bread into our diets for the first of eight days.

So I was already relaxed—thanks to sipping a few extra hits of wine between the prescribed ceremonial sips—when we got to the part in the Haggadah, the Passover prayer book, where Pharoah fears that the rapidly reproducing Hebrews are growing too strong and will rebel against their Egyptian overlords. So he decrees that any newborn males must be drowned. Enter baby Moses to the loving slave family of Amram, his wife Yocheved, and their children Miriam and Aaron. Yocheved manages to hide baby Moses for three months. Then, fearing that he will be discovered, she places him in a basket, which she floats down the Nile River to where Bithiah, the daughter of Pharoah, bathes. She sends sister Miriam to watch Moses from a distance. When Bithiah discovers the basket and shows pity on the baby, Miriam emerges from behind the bulrushes and says, “I know a Hebrew woman who is a child care provider who is looking to expand her business. Would you like me to contact her and have her call you?”

Wait! Is that what it said? I looked again:

One couple, Amram and Yocheved, hid their newborn at home for three months. When his cries became too loud, Yocheved placed him in a basket on the river. Miriam, their daughter, watched to see what would happen. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the basket and decided to keep him as her own. She named him Moshe meaning “drawn from the water.” Bravely, Miriam asked the princess if she needed a nurse to help her with the baby. The princess said yes, and so it happened that Yocheved was able to care for her own son and teach him about his heritage.

Oh, that’s what the words said.

But, like Moses at the burning bush, I had discovered hidden meaning from a higher power. When Miriam offered to introduce Bithiah to Yocheved she was actually giving her mother a business referral—possibly the first recorded instance of business networking, and a reminder that the best referrals often come from family members.

It was definitely a hot referral—a #5 on the BNI white slip. The story is told in Exodus, but it was surely the Genesis of business networking.

Exodus: Gods and Kings and Unnecessary Biblical Reinterpretations

I saw Exodus: Gods and Kings yesterday with Emily. I wanted to like it. I always enjoy movies about Biblical mythology. Well, not always.

Mostly it was a monologue by Moses talking to whoever was within earshot. The second main character, his Egyptian brother and Pharaoh-in-waiting Ramses, played a distant secondary role at best, mainly to be Moses’ foil.

Exodus_MosesAndRamses

The other main characters from the Biblical narrative—Aaron, Miriam, Joshua—had about a dozen lines among them, none memorable with the exception of Miriam’s refusal to admit that Moses was her brother to save his identity. John Turturro—usually one of my favorite actors—was unconvincing as Moses’ Egyptian father, not because of bad acting but because he looked more like he would be Moses’ brother.

A selection of famous Biblical landmark scenes that were played down or disregarded or totally altered for the movie without improving the story line:

  1. Moses talked to Ramses on his own without brother Aaron’s aid, a necessity according to the Biblical narrative because of Moses’ famous speech impediment, caused when the child Moses chose the burning lump of coal instead of the diamond and put it in his mouth, a sign of his future leadership role among the slaves—though today I have to think that adults who place a lump of burning coal within a child’s reach and then watch as he puts it in his mouth would need a good lawyer to have those pesky child abuse charges dropped, and I’m pretty sure Moses would have struggled with trust issues throughout his life and probably run like hell from the burning bush instead of bowing down in front of it or else become a pyromaniac in a perverted attempt to overcome his fear of fire.
  2. The burning bush was only in the background as Moses spoke instead to a God that was played by a child rather than the traditional old man (actually an interesting twist; think Macauley Culkin in Home Alone; do not think George Burns in O God or Morgan Freeman in Evan Almighty).
  3. Moses does not flee Egypt after killing an Egyptian guard who is beating a Hebrew slave. Rather, he makes a sarcastic comment to the guard about the uselessness of whipping the Hebrew since the Hebrew is still, according to Moses, smiling even as he is being whipped, but otherwise does nothing. Later, after talking to Joshua’s father Nun [I know their relationship because of the old riddle, “Q. Which Biblical character didn’t have a father? A. Joshua. He was the son of Nun”], an irate Moses storms out of Nun’s shack and attacks, for no apparent reason, someone who I think was an Israeli, unaware that two other Israelis have overheard the conversation between Nun and Moses and are about to turn him in. As a result of their traitorous act, and not because of Moses’ own self-preservation instinct, Moses is carried into the desert by Ramses’ guards and left to die.

Exodus_MosesAndNun

Meanwhile, the sign that flashed on the screen at the beginning of the movie to tell us where the story was taking place said, and I’m not kidding: “King’s Palace, Memphis.” Did anyone not think we were watching an Elvis movie?

As I watched the Israelis slaughtering a lamb per household so they could paint a red “X” over each doorpost, I couldn’t help noticing that one lamb had enough blood to cover at least a complete street. A lot of lambs could have been spared if they had been less wasteful. I hope the Hebrews at least all had lamb for dinner that night, which makes me wonder why Jews don’t eat lamb for Passover as a reminder of the lambs’ sacrifice instead of just putting a shank bone on the Seder plate.

Christian Bale did a decent job as Moses. I look forward to seeing the upcoming “Resurrection: The Second Time’s the Charm” starring Jew Balestein.