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Evaluate your core relationships

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

January 16 · Issue #226 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Have you ever stopped to think about who those people are? Do they reflect the kind of person you want to be and the life you want? This issue offers a few ideas to help you evaluate your core relationships.
(~4 min read)

1. Who are your "Big Five"?
Who exactly are the five people you spend the most time with?
Authors Geoffrey Miller and Tucker Max write in their book Mate that if your closest friends and colleagues are “upbeat, confident, and rational, you’ll raise your game just by being around them.”
But if they’re anxious or delusional … well, you get the idea. 
Miller and Max recommend the following two-step exercise to determine whether your Big Five have a net positive impact on your life: 
Step 1. List the five people you spent the most time with over the past month. Not just co-workers, but people you regularly talk to and hang out with.
Then, put a plus sign (+) next to each person who increases your happiness, and a minus sign (-) next to each person who decreases your happiness.
1. Name [+/-]
2. Name [+/-]
3. Name [+/-]
4. Name [+/-]
5. Name [+/-]
Step 2. This is the key step. Spend less time with the minus people and more time with the plus people.
As Miller and Max put it: “Do this exercise every month as long as you live, and you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your well-being.”
The goal is to spend time around the people you respect and want to be like.
It can take time to find these people and to develop relationships with them, but it’s crucial to your overall happiness and mental health.
“Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, a lowering tide makes them all run aground.”
2. Who are the linchpins of your professional network?
Writer Shannon Dunlap and leadership professor Brian Uzzi write in the Harvard Business Review that if you examine your professional network, you’ll notice that some of your contacts have had a disproportionate impact on your opportunities and overall success.
They call these contacts superconnectors: people who have large and varied networks, and who generously make introductions.
Here’s how to identify the superconnectors in your network in three steps:
1. Create a worksheet like the one in the above image with two column headings: “Key Contact” and “Who Introduced You?”
2. In the Key Contact column, list the names of the twenty people who have been most responsible for your success up to now. They could be extended family members, former colleagues and teachers, friends, etc.
3. Now think about who introduced you to each Key Contact, and put that person’s name in the Who Introduced You? column. What you’re looking for here are names that show up more than once. As you can see in the above example, Philip is a superconnector. (If you don’t have any superconnectors, think about your broader network and who is likely to be one and how you can develop a stronger relationship with them.)
Once you have identified your superconnectors, ask yourself the following questions:
How did you meet them?
If you have more than one superconnector in your network, are they in similar industries or roles?
When is the last time you were in touch with them?
Because successful relationships are based on mutual benefits, when you think about your superconnectors also ask yourself: Do you know someone who can help them in some way?
3. Your relationships have compound interest too
Entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant says in an interview that many of the benefits in life come from compound interest—whether in learning, money, or relationships.
As Ravikant notes, to be successful in business, it’s important to play “long-term games with long-term people.” Staying in the game increases your chances of success, and consistent interactions with the same people over time reduces friction, and creates familiarity and trust.
This is a key factor behind Silicon Valley’s success: a network of people in a relatively small geographic area who know each other, do deals together, and have built trust over time: “… they do right by each other because they know this person will be around for the next game.”
But he acknowledges that this long-term approach doesn’t always work. When it’s possible to make a lot of money with a single move, people sometimes betray one another, thinking: I’m going to get rich enough from this one deal that I don’t care.
For Ravikant, this is why it’s important to determine a person’s integrity and long-term orientation early on.
He defines integrity as “what someone does, despite what they say they do” and offers two signals for gauging it in a person:
1. Their track record: As Ravikant points out, people are “oddly consistent” and if someone has has acted in angry, unethical, or vindictive ways with colleagues or rivals in the past, then they are likely to continue doing so in the future.
2. How they treat others in non-work situations: For example, if a person treats a waiter or waitress really badly, “then it’s only a matter of time until they treat you badly.”
Quote of the week
“For both personal and professional relationships, fewer and deeper is better than more and less deep. One relationship is not as good as another … Choose with care. Then build with commitment.”
- Author and management consultant Richard Koch in his book The 80/20 Principle
Idea Journal
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