One Degree Off
What do you mean it’s the week of Thanksgiving?
I mean, I know what you mean, it’s physically the week that contains the holiday. But wasn’t it just Labor Day? Wasn’t it just Columbus Day? Wasn’t it just Arbor day?! Dear readers. It feels like Arbor day was just literally yesterday.
I hope this week is full of reflection on all the things there are to be grateful for. I know my life is chock-full of them, especially my wife and our little guy. But this week, I’ve got an important topic to cover, so I figure you’d be grateful if I just got to it, because even 10 seconds more of application to this principle could move your life forward by months.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight Rises
What do these movies have in common? Not just a top-10 list of my favorite movies. Because there’s only 7 movies listed here. Good catch, readers. This week, we’re talking about a well-known and oft-spoke-of concept; it’s about who you know.
Perfect example: in the film world, there are some directors that I’m quite fond of (and you likely are, too) that seem to work with the same actors time and time again. Let’s use the recent example of Christopher Nolan. Chris Nolan has directed some films that you’ve likely seen. Above is a partial list of some of the bigger titles.
Well, in my opinion as a director of film myself, they’re all pretty fantastically directed. But let me give some actor context. Michael Caine has been in 7 of his films. Christian Bale was in all 3 Batman movies and The Prestige. Cillian Murphy was in the Batman franchise, then featured in Inception AND Dunkirk. Tom Hardy was the lead villain in The Dark Knight Rises, was featured in Inception and Dunkirk.
Have You Ever Heard: It's All About Who You Know?
And why does he continually work with the same people? There’s lots of incredible talent in Hollywood, you say. Well, it’s not just because they’re buddies. They’re terrific collaborators, for sure. But in the movie business, there are just so many unknowns lurking around every decision. From the roughly 100 pieces of paper that can make or break a story (the script), to the fact that you have NO idea how the production will unfold, the unknown around schedules, shooting, how the actors will gel with each other, on-screen chemistry, not to mention whether the studio will demand changes, if an audience will even COME AND SEE IT. It’s a sea of unknowns. But in this sea of unknowns, he’s got a couple less. Because he knows and trusts a core group of actors that he’s worked with consistently, and with them he has great rapport.
Even if he has to slightly adjust the plan to fit that performer in, it’s better sometimes than taking a chance on someone you don’t know at all.
Well, the same thing holds true in just about every area of life. In professional sports, you’ll see a coach leave a team and take on a new one. And often times he brings his coaching staff with him. He’s got his people. He’ll even bring players who are free agents with him, because he trusts the guys who “get it.”
Same thing in business. As you’re growing a company, expanding, looking to work with more of the right people, opening new departments…it’s great to take a recommendation from someone you know. It might be only a 90% fit for the position, but you know they’ve got the work ethic and the attitude. And it all boils down to having one less thing to worry about.
I was having a conversation with someone while I was out and about, and the conversation started heading towards what we did for work. Well, it was a good conversation. I started talking about how I was initially going down the professional actor road, and then the entrepreneur path, started a film festival, etc…(This is all covered in the delightful book The Delusion of Passion, a great read, I highly recommend it…), and then I ran into a newer friend who started teaching me about how to create income differently, and more effectively, creating assets for myself that could outlive me, generating some long-term financial solutions. And her response was:
“Well, I guess it’s about who you know, huh?”
It wasn’t what she said, it was the way that she said it. Very resigned, almost negatively so, and maybe with an air of jealousy, tinged with an aroma of an “it’s all luck” attitude. (See last week’s blog for more thoughts on THAT.)
I wanted to give her a chance to unpack her thoughts. So I asked her, “You say that with a bit of disdain?”
And she went on to vent about how “unfortunately that’s how it is in life, that it’s about WHO you know, not always about the people who are the most credentialed, most educated, most skilled in a certain area.” This was a concept that I could understand, especially coming from the theatre world, but like many things in this life regarding success principles, my world-view had shifted on this topic, and I was all too eager to share my thoughts.
I didn’t grow up in a wealthy, trust-fund baby home. My parents were immigrants, scraping by, raising 3 great kids. I had to hustle to move ahead. I had to work harder than everyone around me, and if there were doors that were going to open up for me, it was going to be because I forced them open myself. Had to create my world through blood, sweat and tears. And the more I grew up, the more I moved forward, the more I learned that the simple statement “It’s about WHO you know” was absolutely true. And I learned how important it actually was.
It IS About Who You Know: And That's A Good Thing
That’s honestly one of the biggest powers of referral. It’s vouching for someone. My friend has done this or that. Well, you trust YOUR friend. And if THEY have a friend that THEY’RE speaking highly of, that’s better than having an unknown. Which is why it’s terribly important to really cultivate the connections that you have. They’re literally door-openers.
Now, it takes work to establish these relationships, for sure. But it’s nothing new. Everything of value takes work. Sometimes, as was the case with me, you have to LEARN what those things are to focus your work towards. And often times, developing the relationships in your life are even harder than the work it took for you to be that “credentialed, educated” candidate. Sure you worked hard to get A’s, I did too. But you can study a textbook and get good grades. You can prep alone in a library for a test. Working on your relationships involves other people.
Maintaining a good relationship is hard work, but it’s QUITE worth it. And you’ve got to be thinking about how you add value to the relationship. How do you prove yourself trustworthy, time and again? Loyal, reliable, consistent, a go-getter. I’ll tell you another side of the story.
A gal that I know, I’ve seen her work very hard, be consistent. I’ve seen it for the last 2 years. And it was my PLEASURE to introduce her to an executive in a company. “You need to find a spot for this person” were my words. It was an email and a phone call, and things are moving quickly for her now.
Where One Degree Off Will Lead You...
It’s about who you know! Yes, true, and it wasn’t just that she was lucky and knew the right people, however. She had been proving herself for the last 2 YEARS. SHE was the “right people”. She worked hard, and proved it. Having the wrong perspective, in this case, just a single degree difference between the right and wrong perspective, is enough to close doors you didn't realize you were closing.
So. What does that mean for you, dear reader? Well, you have to work hard for the relationships you have already, plain and simple. Are you adding value to the managers that you have right now? Are you finding ways to add to the entry-level job you’re currently in? If you can’t honor the relationships you have now, you’re not going to be opened up to bigger, further-reaching relationships.
Life is a series of killing what’s in front of you, gaining the skills, perspective and relationship that you need to in your current situation, and THAT enables you to be ready to move up and out into the next best thing. So, how do you prove yourself in these relationships?
1) Be dependable. What’s your dependability game like? Are you someone who is good to their word? Are you someone that offers a deadline, and then falls back from it, with a well-meaning, perfectly logical excuse? Remember, your word is your worth, and your worth is your word.
2) Be loyal. Are you a bit of a gossip? Maybe it’s not incredibly intentional, but are you someone who just likes to please others, and will jump on and agree with other people’s gossip while you’re around them? Are you a team player, and do you have your leader/manager/boss’s back?
3) Do you add value? This can sometimes be the hardest thing to quantify, but is it always about you? Remember, you don’t have to be an evil genius or an ego-maniac to be selfish. Often times, being innocuously selfish is the default. You need to re-wire your brain to start thinking about others, and how you can add value.
Take the week and focus on this, and let me know your results! If life is about who you know, remember that it goes both ways. You’re always making an impression. Always. It’s either one that can be recommended and passed continually upwards, or one that people want to cautiously avoid. It’s absolutely about who you know, so cultivate every relationship. You never know where it will lead!
I’m about to cultivate a relationship with some candied yams. Happy Thanksgiving, young leaders!