In business and in life, companies and individuals strive to be unique and create a differentiator between themselves and others. The truest way to execute this is to build the right, long-lasting relationships. This leads to a few questions.
- Are you invested in the right relationships?
- And I mean really invested?
One birthday, two very different guest lists
Most of us have been conditioned to think that the more relationships we have, the better. We brag about the size of our networks and work hard to connect on social media. But not all relationships have the same weight. Some are more important than others. The trick is to know which ones are the most valuable and to invest in those relationships on purpose.
Admittedly, I’ve misstepped in this arena. For example, when my wife and I were getting ready to celebrate my 50th birthday a few years back, she asked me to throw together a list of people I wanted to take on a trip with us. When she seemed surprised at some of the names I spit out, I stepped back and thought about how I picked everyone. The truth was that some of the people I was going to invite weren’t the most valuable to me. Sure, they were fun, but they hadn’t been involved with me through many of the most meaningful points in my life.
As you might imagine, since I hadn’t looked at my relationships like this before, I hadn’t been very good at choosing to work on them. I let barriers like geographic distance, or all the projects I had on my plate, get in the way. I worried about reaching out, too. Would they still want to talk to me? Would we still have things in common? Could I be helpful? All those unknowns were scary.
Then I looked at that birthday list again. This time, I thought about who had had the biggest influence on me at every stage of my life, such as college or when I first started as a professional. The types of people on my new list were all over the map, and when I got back in touch with them, we picked up right where we left off. That was only possible because I had real friendships with those people, real relationships with them instead of just superficial acquaintances. I knew that, from that point on, those were the relationships I needed to put my energy and resources into.
Professional and personal value of investing in connections that count
Of course, you don’t have to wait until your next birthday to figure out which relationships matter the most to you. It’s something you can figure out right now, today.
Investing in the right relationships can have amazing payoffs for your career or business. It can mean that you get the right advice when you need it, your access to resources is reliable, and you get in on the ground floor with new projects. The old saying that it’s not what you know but who you know is often true. So, choose the people you interact with wisely. Don’t just throw a dart at the wall and hope for the best.
Investing in the right people helps you personally, too. These people keep you calm. They build your confidence. They make you feel like you belong and that you matter. You can’t always choose to get rid of other stressors, but you can choose who you want to be your friends and business partners/mentors. If you choose wisely, then happiness gets a whole lot closer.
Go all-in with your deliberately selected circle for success
We are all busy people. Even if we weren’t, it’s not really possible to maintain more than 150 close contacts. This is the so-called Dunbar’s number, named after anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who believes the human brain is incapable of handling a social system that includes over 150 people. So, the relationships we pursue have to be a conscious choice. Dunbar himself put it this way:
“What determines these layers [of social interaction and closeness] in real life … is the frequency at which you see people. You’re having to make a decision every day about how you invest what time you have available for social interaction, and that’s limited.”
When it comes to relationships, don’t measure your success based on how many LinkedIn followers you have or the number of people who are subscribed to your newsletter. Instead, consciously choose the people you want to give and take with for the long haul and go all in. It might be a much smaller circle than you were convinced you needed, but that circle is going to prove to be incredibly solid as you build the fearless life you want.
Brendan P. Keegan is the CEO of Merchants Fleet.