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Weekly 3: Maintain key relationships

Summary: Not all relationships are created equal. It’s worth putting more effort into the ones that m

Idea Journal Weekly 3

November 15 · Issue #165 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Not all relationships are created equal. It’s worth putting more effort into the ones that matter most.
(~4 min read)

#1. What physics can teach you about your personal relationships
Researchers Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg write in Super Thinking that physics can teach us about the need to maintain order in our relationships. 
As McCann and Weinberg note, the concept of entropy measures the amount of disorder in a system. 
The second law of thermodynamics states that in a closed system, entropy naturally increases over time. 
If you consider the universe as one big closed system, the law leads to the “plausible end state of our universe as a homogeneous gas, evenly distributed everywhere, commonly known as the heat death of the universe.”
On a practical level, the second law of thermodynamics reminds us that you have to actively maintain order. If you don’t, it will be chipped away by naturally increasing disorder. 
For example, if you don’t clean your home it will become more messy. If you don’t actively manage your time well, it will go to “random, largely reactionary activities.”
The lesson is that you have to continually put energy back into systems to maintain their orderly state.
And this is also true for your relationships. 
As McCann and Weinberg put it: “To keep the same level of trust with people, you need to keep building on it.”
#2. Make key relationships work
Organizational behavior professor Jeffrey Pfeffer writes in his book Power that the ability to make critical relationships work, even when you’re faced with opposition and personal slights, is a rare skill.
It may be rare, but “it is crucial in surmounting and disarming opponents.”
Pfeffer tells the story of how businessman Gary Loveman used this approach when he joined the company previously known as Harrah’s Entertainment as Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Before joining Harrah’s, Loveman had been a professor at Harvard Business School and had done some consulting work for the company. But many insiders at Harrah’s thought they were more qualified for the role and resented his appointment.
One of the people unhappy with Loveman’s arrival was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), a senior executive who was older than Loveman. The CFO position was important not only politically, but also for accomplishing key organizational improvements.
Knowing how critical the CFO would be to his own success, Loveman moved quickly to make the relationship work. He spent some amount of time with the CFO every day, kept the CFO informed about what he was doing and why, and involved him in decisions and meetings – he did everything he could to make the relationship successful. 
For Pfeffer, the lesson is that there comes a point in your career where you simply have to make important relationships work. Your feelings, or others’ feelings about you, don’t matter: 
“To be successful, you have to get over resentments, jealousies, anger, or anything else that might get in the way of building a relationship where you can get the resources necessary for you to get the job done.”
#3. How many "true fans" do you have?
Technology expert Kevin Kelly writes on his blog that most creators only need 1,000 true fans to be successful.
Many artists and entrepreneurs chase clicks, hits, and media mentions “trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status.”
But a better strategy is to develop stronger relationships with the people who really care. For Kelly, the focus should be on quality over quantity.
A true fan will drive 200 miles to watch you perform; they’ll buy the hardcover, paperback, and audio versions of your book; they’ll test the beta version of your app and tell their friends; they’ll buy your latest painting sight unseen.
You need to meet 2 criteria to make the math of 1,000 true fans work:
  1. Each year, you need to create enough so that you make, on average, $100 profit from each true fan.
  2. Your relationship with your true fans must be direct, so that you can earn the $100 from them without involving an intermediary like a publisher, studio, or retailer.
If you meet the above criteria, you can make $100,000 each year, which is a good living for most people.
The 1,000 true fans formula isn’t absolute, and should be adjusted for each person.
For example, if you can only earn $50 from each true fan then you need 2,000 of them; if you are able to earn $200 from each true fan, then you only need 500. Or maybe you can survive on $75,000 per year.
The point is that you probably need fewer people than you think to successfully pursue your craft, and when you’re starting out this can make the process more encouraging and realistic.
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
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