Insights with Ben Chodor - Conversation with Christopher Kai


February 26, 2021


Christopher Kai shares some of the common mistakes people make in networking, and how you can avoid them. He and Ben dive into the four levels of Networking, having success with the C.A.L.F. networking strategy and why you should set a 2 + 2 weekly goal for relationship building. Utilized together; these strategies will help you develop life-changing relationships and lasting communities with Big Gamers – –anyone in a position of influence you think is out of your league, which includes but is not limited to billionaires, executives and celebrities.


Conversation with Christopher Kai:



DM-Insights with Ben Chodor22



Ben Chodor 00:00

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening - wherever you are! Welcome to another edition of Insights. I'm really excited about this one. First - it's the first one I'm doing not from a studio and not from Manhattan; from East Hampton. And I can't think of a better location to do this interview with Christopher Kai. He wrote a great book called "Big Game Hunting". And what's really interesting about the book, and this is: there's reason why there's no cover on the book. I literally was reading the book for a second time - this weekend on the beach - and it was a little windy, and the cover blew away, which I'm embarrassed to say. But the book didn't. It is incredible. And it was really ironic for me reading the book, because it's all about networking, and meeting famous people; business executives; world leaders. And I'm sitting there on the beaches of East Hampton, where whoever knew next to me around me are a lot of the big game hunters that he talks about in the book. Let me work. Welcome Christopher to the show. Chris, how are you today?


Christopher Kai 01:15

I'm doing well, Ben! Thanks so much for this opportunity to share some tips on how we can make this world a better place.


Ben Chodor 01:21

I love it. I mean, listen, your book actually resonated with me for a couple things. One thing that I loved in the book, in the beginning of the book, you talk about how, I guess, you really started becoming a big game hunter. And it was you wanted recommendations, and you sent lots of letters. I can't tell the story. But how did you start in this whole process of figuring out how to meet people that could help you in your career in your life in business? Or even in school?


Christopher Kai 01:55

Yeah, [because], you know, Ben - as a fellow New Yorker, there's a reason why people say "When you have made it in, in New York, you can make it anywhere". And there's some truth to that. Because, if you live in a city like New York City, the biggest and best city in the US - arguably the world (I'm biased); but when I'm seven years old, and it's snowing, and what compels me to my friend Jocko - my best friend of the time - we put on our overcoats, our gloves, and our shovel. We are knocking on doors when it's really cold. But it's snowing, so therefore our neighbors don't want to walk outside. So therefore a seven year old kid and a five year old kid with a shovel. Then, and we knock on the door and say "Hey! Do you want us to shovel the snow from your porch?" and they say "Yes". And so when I'm making $100, and [as] a seven year old - hi, whoa! So the entrepreneur dream was started very early, because my mother was the former school teacher, my father's a former case manager, so we didn't have any access, no connections, no money. But the seed was planted that entrepreneurship was laid to move forward for more opportunities for giving and for more choices in life. And then the pivot point was when my uncle hired me at his insurance company in Manhattan, lower Manhattan, lower East Side. He was immigrant from Hong Kong, and he created his own insurance company in hired me at age 12. And when I saw him as an entrepreneur, my first person, my first mentor of that sort, I didn't even know what a mentor was. I didn't know what an entrepreneur was. But I saw him working with clients; I saw him working with these very successful business owner is and that was when the networking seed was planted. And the massive shift was when I started working at American Express on Wall Street, and I was literally building out global sales decks for all different clients like IBM, Microsoft, and seeing that: once you get to a certain level on Wall Street at American Express, you start seeing why people are successful. If you and I are best friends with Ken Chanel, who is the incoming CEO at the time, well, what opportunities do we have? Or if your neighbor in East Hampton is Alec Baldwin? What opportunities do you have in the world of entertainments? So when I started realizing and connecting the dots where your success really is based on your network, and everyone knows that it's cliche, but I always say, well, you're going to find that people say: Well, are those people? How do you find them? How do you connect? How do you work with them? How do you engage? So it's great to say, Oh, your network is your net worth. But how to actually do that? And "Big Gamer" is just the term I created where it's the most important in the world; like the billionaires, multimillionaires, celebrities, and CEOs, unfortunately, companies because everyone might want to network well, but most people don't know to do it at that scale.


Ben Chodor 04:25

No, they don't. I think in general, people don't know how to work network at all, right? It's interesting for our organization: I did a talk once on making yourself an opinion leader. And for me, it was trying to tell people, like, do things you're uncomfortable with. Create a podcast, right? Just do it - doesn't matter if you have one listener, it's the power of one. Or, if you create a podcast, then aren't you considered part of the media? So you can use it to get into an event and, you know, you need to go to networking events and collect not just collect business cards but create relationships. And, people aren't good at doing that.


Christopher Kai 05:07

I agree with you, Ben. Again, what you just said is the core reason why they don't - meaning they don't have courage. They don't have courage to walk up to Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or Bill Clinton; don't have courage to go on a podcast; they don't have courage to do things. But in life, you will have to get through your fears, because ultimately your dreams are behind those doors or fears. And with what you're saying, whether you're building a company or meeting someone that's successful, what I find unfortunate is that they place the value on themselves, and they don't understand that I don't care who you are - Ben or Elon Musk. People always ask me, how do you approach something like that? What value to bring? And I always say, look, you first have to accept the settlement book, Ben. You have to accept that we as human beings all have the same human value. And that's really important, because a lot of people, they out themselves, when they think they don't have value. And, now, we understand human value. But there are very clear levels of networking, there are very clear levels of social economic background, and there are very clear levels of education. And when people don't confuse their value as a human being for the value of the external thing, then they already start walking toward the truth of life, which is: I evaluate myself because my mother finally raised me right. I don't question my value for Elon Musk, anyone I meet, because I know my value myself. And then if you want to meet someone like Elon, or something that's successful, that is about how can I serve this person? How can I give to this person? How can I build a long term relationship? And don't be a groupie?


Ben Chodor 06:31

I love how you put it because I think a lot of it goes, in the beginning, is just people's confidence or fear of rejection. And you're turning around; forget about fear of rejection, what is your self worth? What do you bring to the table? And I think that's a unique way to look at it. Because it's, you know, like the stories of when you were in college, and you'd go to a bar and you wanted to walk up to someone of the opposite sex, right? And you wanted to; it was the courage to do it, as opposed to going like, Hey, I'm worthy, I should have this conversation, I'm going to make something meaningful. And I think I love how you put that. And one of the things you actually wrote in the book is you say, in your introduction, ignorance is not bliss - self awareness is bliss. How important is self awareness? Do you think for if you were going to tell someone aspiring to network? I mean, do you need to be really self aware?


Christopher Kai 07:25

Yes. If you want to be successful, and it really comes down to, Ben, your level of ambition. What I mean is, you're an ambitious guy, I'm am ambitious guy. So we're already at the same level, or both. Because if someone is not self aware, they don't even know what ambition is. And again, there are levels; when I'm coming back from Davos in January, where I bumped into Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, I'm talking to Ray Dalio, the biggest hedge fund guy in the world, there are different levels, right? They don't know who I am. And I'm fine with that. But I still want to learn from them. But what I'm saying is, unfortunately, people don't really accept that you have to be aware of what you want, and what you can give. That's the most basic thing. So when networking, especially at this level, you have to be super clear. Because for 99% of people, there's actually four levels in the networking, Ben. The first one is what 90% of people do, which is horrible and wrong, which is traditional. I don't even have this my book, by the way. So you're getting like a sneak preview of what the private clients have to do because the first level is literally traditional networking, which is dead, boring doesn't work. The second level is science-based networking. There's a guy named Ron Burt, who literally studied networking science. And he found that your network is the number one best predictor and it came down to two things: you have a closed network, or open network. If you and our buddies growing up in Woodside, Queens, and all we know is you and I at the Cabot School, and we don't know anyone beyond our three friends, then that's a closed network. As soon as you start branching out where you're in the East Hampton; I'm in Beverly Hills; I'm in Zurich; I'm in South Africa, then that's called an open network. And the people that have open networks are more successful. And this is based on science. So that's the second level. The third level is okay, now that you know you have to broaden your networks in an open network with different genders, different races, different socioeconomic backgrounds, then it's about the big gamers. How do you reach them? How do you meet them? How do you find these events? And the last tier is what I call "Next Level Networking" in which is as a speaker. You're a speaker, I go on these stages and I've literally spoken at the same events in the same year or obviously years. Let's say I was in Saudi Arabia last November, and Bill Gates spoke the year before; I spoke at Money20/20 a few years back and Richard Branson spoke to the year after me. And Steve Wozniak spoke the year I was there. But that's the largest business conference in the world where there's 12,000 people across four days and so when you're behind the stage meeting Max Levchin, the co-founder of PayPal, you're meeting, John Kauffman, co-founder of Stripe. But what I'm saying is people don't realize that no one tells you this stuff. No one tells you about the score level.


Ben Chodor 09:50

I want to think of when you are talking about showing up at events and a lot of people's excuse is: I can't afford to. And you go well, you can volunteer, you can, you know, there's different ways. But one of my favorite ones that you put is if you know an event's happening, you go to the lobby. You still dress as if you're going to the event, and you have that random encounter. And that's all you need, right? Is that opportunity to have a meaningful conversation? They have no idea you're not really at the event that you have? No, I mean, it's... I think you need confidence, but you need to have a vision and a mission of what you're going to accomplish. But I love how you look at it; every negative that I can give you why wouldn't work for me, you're giving me three reasons why or something to try.


Christopher Kai 10:36

If you want convention results, then go to a convention test; I'll go to college and get a degree maybe I'll get into a good school. And then when I graduate, maybe I'll try to to be an entrepreneur, But make sure your listeners get what I'm talking about. If, let's say, I want to go into your world of digital media; if I was able to stalk you on all the platforms and see which comments you go to, look at where the conference person is, and then where the hotel is on the website, you know - and then go there. And literally it seems simple. I still do this. I've gotten clients. And what's funny about it, is that a lot of the lobby hunting concept, which is literally go to a lobby of a conference. And the conference, when they're there at a hotel, they show the agenda. But you have to go to the more four or five star hotels. What's funny, Ben, is lobby hunting actually is the highest level of networking there is because you're literally like a Navy SEAL when you dive in there. And you know no one but you['re good] as long as you have a story. And what's funny is I have a friend who's an FBI agent, former FBI agent for 20 years, he went undercover for two years. And he said, Chris, you'd be a great undercover agent because you know how to build rapport. And that's what they do. You go undercover, you build rapport, you have to have a backstory to know why you're there. But really the vital hidden concept. There's no excuses. I don't have a business, it doesn't matter, whatever four or five star hotel your hotel you are close to. There's no excuses. That's why, unfortunately, people go back on the confidence in themselves and self-worth, I don't have issues with my self-worth, thankfully, because I have a great family background. But it wasn't perfect. It was when I realized, as you read my book, when I literally was writing a book called "Success". And I'm early to mid-20s. I'm like, Alright, I need people to include their expertise in that book. So I emailed or wrote, it wasn't even email at the time, it was late 90s. But I reached out to the mayor of New York. And I thought, well, the mayor, why not reach out to the governor and the Attorney General and the Vice President, the president. Because when I realized that if you shoot really high, you don't get it, who cares?


Ben Chodor 12:35

It goes back, you got to be in it to win it. So you have to try. I also like one of the points you made, is when you see people, if you can't get to that person, if you talk to the people around them - it's a way to get to their inner circle. And if you know, become friendly and chat with people, it's about that network that you're in. It's not like you only have one shot, you have multiple shots from the people around you. So let me ask you a question. So, you know, you speak at these same conferences? What's the line? What should I do if I want to approach Christopher? And whether it's because I'm thinking of writing a book, and I want to get your advice, or I want to just tap into something that you're doing? How should people approach someone like you when you get off the stage?


Christopher Kai 13:22

It depends on how much time you have. If you only have two minutes, I have an acronym called C.A.L.F. that put in my book - c-a-l-f. Literally C stands for compliment. Thank you so much for being here. I really loved your speech. A [is] ask. Whatever it is the best ways and some speakers, you're like, Christopher, I loved your speech. You might be perfect for my conference, I'd love to explore it, use to get my conference you're asking. L is you leave because if I have hundreds, or dozens of people approached me, which is usually what happens if you're a good speaker. And then lastly, your follow up.


Ben Chodor 13:55

What do you think the biggest mistake some people make when they're, you know, networking?


Christopher Kai 14:00

It goes back to what you said self-awareness, but it really is that phrase that I'm really good at, working in the room. Working in the room is a complete waste of time in the room. And I have to stress that you have to have to have the research. And the crazy thing is Ben, I have a lot of rules for clients and a lot of wealth manager clients. And a lot of times they don't realize that they literally post the percentage of executives that are on the website, because for the sponsors they want to come they'll say, if you want to be a sponsor for event, we have 82% who are senior executives, so it doesn't take too long to look at the website, which I do, by the way. If I know that Richard Branson's there, then that's out of the conference because either somebody knows Richard Branson, or they have six figures to hire him to already know I'm in the right room. So the mistake I see is they don't do research. They go to free events, giving events, things that fit their schedule, but I always tell people, Ben, like, let's say I met you literally, this Saturday. And I was going to go to the Hollywood Hills party. And I always say, because I don't know who you are, but it's all about giving. And this happened. By the way, when I did meet Elon Musk at 11 o'clock at night, I texted one of my buddies, they know him very well. I'm like, yo, do you want to come meet Elon Musk, come now. And he came, and he met Elon Musk as he was coming out and beyond the whole meeting Elon Musk, he got in the right room.


Ben Chodor 15:21

It is really fascinating. And it goes back to seize the opportunity, like your friend wants to have an opportunity to meet someone, there might not be another chance. And it's not just in big game hunting and networking. It's in business; you have an opportunity to meet a client that could end up being one of your biggest clients. But it didn't fit into your calendar for some reason? That makes no sense. You have to seize the opportunity, because you don't know when the next one's gonna come. And one of the things in your book that really kind of resonated with me was the two plus two weekly goal of relationship building. Can you explain what that is? And how does it actually work for you?


Christopher Kai 16:01

Yeah, so whether it's one plus one, two plus two, whatever might be, but one of my mentors and colleagues named Angie Chin. One of the smartest people I've ever met in life. She's the former CFO of [Coffee Bean & Tea Leafs]. And for those of you in California know that Coffee Bean is a competitor of Starbucks. My point is, she's super smart. She's the CFO, understands finance. And she pretty much said that's her strategy; she always meets to people that she doesn't know, so they're new. So she meets two new friends that already have novelty in life. And that's been studied by science, if you want to be a high performer, you have to constantly learn. And the other is to hold relationships that you want to build deeper relationships to. The two plus two is every week, find to old friends or to old colleagues or to old clients, you want to dive deeper to build deeper relationships, long term thinking, not transactional, but transformational. And then two new relationships. But in my case, you're a new relationship. I don't know you, but you already created this awesome platform. So I don't usually even do these podcasts anymore. But again, I want to meet new people. But your status in terms of level, you seem like a good guy, I looked at your various videos, you seem very genuine. And it might be an opportunity for growth for both of us, right? And you asked me and offered me and said cool. So the two plus two simply speaking is you find two new friends a week to develop new relationships, or new clients, new prospects and two old friends. And if you wanted to start simple, just do one, one new friend, one old friend. And if it is a business, it's not stopping by the way even COVID no one's stopping you from LinkedIn or Facebook or Tick tock, it doesn't matter.


Ben Chodor 17:30

I agree 100% with that, I mean, listen - there's no magic wand! You've got to put in the work. Relationships take time and effort, and you just brought up [what] was going to lead me to my next question. What's advice for networking in COVID? And you know what, I always tell people COVID, non COVID, send me a genuine LinkedIn message. Right? That isn't a Hey, oh, wow, I find your profile really interesting. Then there's dot dot, dot. Hey, are you interested in databases? No, no, no, that's not engaging me. When you're looking for something in a career, flatter me a little bit but be meaningful; don't just be a salesman, you know?


Christopher Kai 18:14

Here's the great thing. What people don't realize is we're human beings, Ben. If you're doing a podcast, clearly do it for a reason, whether it's, you find it interesting whether you want to build your brand, whether you want to connect with yourself. But you are front facing, which means you have a level of high desire to be in front of people, which means you want people to see you. Which means if I say, hey, Ben, I really admired and really learned so much about the interview with you on that day with this person. And this is the one specific thing I learned was pretty much saying I'm complimenting you, but to be very specific. So you know, I'm not full of, you know what, I'm full of. And so you're like, wow, this guy's really specific. So I'm constantly going back to who doesn't want a genuine compliment? Because like you said, in the COVID world, I can't tell you how many people have seen. First of all, they don't have a picture on their profile. So immediately, my team deletes them. And most people have business, they don't even look at their own stuff. And then beyond that, they have this rambling message after you accept them, or they don't have a personal invite. And me personally, I would literally say, Ben, I saw your interview with Christopher Kai. Now what advice and networking? Would you like to be on my podcast or interview my boss, who's a senior executive? He makes $100 million a year.


Ben Chodor 19:30

I agree. So let me ask a question. Nothing to do with this. Do you like presenting virtually at all? For you, how much do you miss human interaction? And what's the second? Since you can't do that right now, what's the next best thing for you?


Christopher Kai 19:48

Really, it's like someone's stuck a dagger in my heart. Because really what connects us all is connection. And remind you this is 20 years into my journey. And January, February, I was traveling 40,000 miles in Davos in Switzerland, in Saudi Arabia and Dubai and London and Australia. I'm at my peak. But I don't even know I have this program, where my giving now is, I turned back on this podcast called the Gifters Podcast where I said to myself, "How can I be most purposeful and giving sufficient of my time?" And so I created this podcast where we share stories and build a 10 minute version, which is free, and then a bunch of people that want a longer form - then I charge for that. But what I do now is just really continue to give their stories and learn. And ultimately I still do virtual gigs, but I have an entire you know, hundreds of clients online and teaching them how to build a park, teaching them how to network teaching them how to brand themselves. So for me, it really comes down to though I can't be on the stage yet. I can be on the virtual stages for that.


Ben Chodor 20:55

That is like the perfect way to end this. I just have one question for you that I asked almost everyone. What's your favorite word?


Christopher Kai 21:02



Ben Chodor 21:04

Man. There's no better way to end. Listen, this was a lot of fun. It was a pleasure meeting you. I feel like I made a new friend. Can't wait to continue this. Thank you. Most importantly, stay safe, and have a great rest of your day, sir.