Inc: How to Motivate Yourself in 10 Easy Steps

May 22, 2015


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Images: Getty Images 

It’s 2:00 p.m. Your lunch sits snugly in your stomach causing fog to settle over your brain. Your energy is low. Thought processes stop mid-stream. You know what needs to get done, but your body is resisting it.

We can all relate to this feeling, but the similarities stop there.

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Inc: 11 Ways Remarkable Storytellers Create Reality Distortion Fields

May 12, 2015


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Image: Getty Images

I can’t get this idea out of my head:

If something catastrophic happens to Earth, we lose billions of years of evolution and thousands of years of advanced human civilization. Colonizing Mars isn’t just something we can do-it is also something we should do.

Seven years ago, I couldn’t have imagined myself saying those words…

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How One Life Hack From A Self-Made Billionaire Leads To Exceptional Success

Mar 23, 2015


Countless books and articles have been written about Warren Buffett. Surprisingly few have been written about his business partner of over 40 years, Charlie Munger…

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The No. 1 Predictor Of Career Success According To Network Science

Jan 21, 2015


Steve Jobs from the wilderness years (Photo: AP)
Steve Jobs from the wilderness years (Photo: AP)

 

It has been over three years since Steve Jobs died.

Since then, books have been written and movies have been made.

Each has celebrated his legacy and aimed to share the secrets he used to build the largest company in the world; things like attention to detail, attracting world-class talent and holding them to high standards.

We think we understand what caused his success.

We don’t.

We dismiss usable principles of success by labeling them as personality quirks.

What’s often missed is the paradoxical interplay of two of his seemingly opposite qualities; maniacal focus and insatiable curiosity. These weren’t just two random strengths. They may have been his most important as they helped lead to everything else.

Jobs’ curiosity fueled his passion and provided him with access to unique insights, skills, values, and world-class people who complemented his own skillset. Job’s focus brought those to bear in the world of personal electronics.

I don’t just say this as as someone who has devoured practically every article, interview, and book featuring him.

I say this as someone who has interviewed many of the world’s top network scientists on a quest to understand how networks create competitive advantage in business and careers.

The Simple Variable That Explains What Really Causes Career Success

In December of 2013, I interviewed one of the world’s top network scientists, Ron Burt. During it, he shared a chart that completely flipped my understanding of success. Here is a simplified version:

Burt_Success_Final

The bottom line? According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.

In the chart, the further to the right you go toward a closed network, the more you repeatedly hear the same ideas, which reaffirm what you already believe. The further left you go toward an open network, the more you’re exposed to new ideas. People to the left are significantly more successful than those to the right.

In fact, the study shows that half of the predicted difference in career success (i.e., promotion, compensation, industry recognition) is due to this one variable.

Do you ever have moments where you hear something so compelling that you need to know more, yet so crazy that you’d have to let go of some of your core beliefs in order to accept the idea?

This was one of those moments for me. Never in all of the books I had read on self-help, career success, business, or Steve Jobs had I come across this idea.

I wondered, “How is it possible that the structure of one’s network could be such a powerful predictor for career success?”

How A Closed Network Impacts Your Career

To understand the power of open networks, it’s important to understand their opposite.

Most people spend their careers in closed networks; networks of people who already know each other. People often stay in the same industry, the same religion, and the same political party. In a closed network, it’s easier to get things done because you’ve built up trust, and you know all the shorthand terms and unspoken rules. It’s comfortable because the group converges on the same ways of seeing the world that confirm your own.

To understand why people spend most of their time in closed networks, consider what happens when a group of random strangers is thrown together:

David Rock, the founder of the Neuroleadership Institute, the top organization helping leaders through neuroscience research, explains the process well:

We’ve evolved to put people in our ingroup and outgroup. We put most people in our outgroup and a few people in our ingroup. It determines whether we care about others. It determines whether we support or attack them. The process is a byproduct of our evolutionary history where we lived in small groups and strangers we didn’t know well weren’t to be trusted.

By understanding this process, we can begin to understand why the world is the way it is. We understand why Democrats and Republicans can’t pass bills with obvious benefits to society. We understand why religions have gone to war over history. It helps us understand why we have bubbles, panics, and fads.

The Surprising Power And Pain Of Open Networks

People in open networks have unique challenges and opportunities. Because they’re part of multiple groups, they have unique relationships, experiences, and knowledge that other people in their groups don’t.

This is challenging in that it can lead to feeling like an outsider as a result of being misunderstood and under-appreciated because few people understand why you think the way you do.  It is also challenging, because it requires assimilating different and conflicting perspectives into one worldview.

In one of my all-time favorite movies, The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is exposed to a completely new world. Once, he is, he can’t go back. He’s an outsider in the new group, and he’s an outsider in his old life. He’s had an experience that everyone he’s ever met would never understand. This same phenomenon happens when we enter new worlds of people.

On the other hand, having an open network is a huge opportunity in a few ways:

  • More accurate view of the world. It provides them with the ability to pull information from diverse clusters so errors cancel themselves out. Research by Philip Tetlock shows that people with open networks are better forecasters than people with closed networks.
  • Ability to control the timing of information sharing. While they may not be the first to hear information, they can be the first to introduce information to another cluster. As a result, they can leverage the first move advantage.
  • Ability to serve as a translator / connector between groups. They can create value by serving as an intermediary and connecting two people or organizations who can help each other who wouldn’t normally run into each other.
  • More breakthrough ideas. Brian Uzzi, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at the Kellogg School of Management, performed a landmark study where he delved into the tens of millions of academic studies throughout history. He compared their results by the number of citations (links from other research papers) they received and the other papers they referenced. A fascinating pattern emerged. The top performing studies had references that were 90% conventional and 10% atypical (i.e., pulling from other fields). This rule has held constant over time and across fields. People with open networks are more easily able to create atypical combinations.

The Revisionist Timeline Of Steve Jobs Success

As a result of pursuing his curiosity in different fields throughout his life, Steve Jobs developed an extremely unique perspective, skillset, and network; one that no one else in the computer industry had. He turned these unique advantages into the largest company in the world by having a razor sharp focus. Within Apple, he cut out people, products, and systems that weren’t world-class.

Curiosity-Based Experience Application
Tinkering with machinery with his father Understanding craftsmanship and attention to detail
Dropping out of college and sitting in on a calligraphy class Appreciation of design (Macintosh’s varied fonts)
Exploring India and buddhism Apple’s simple aesthetic
Living on an Apple orchard The inspiration for the Mac logo
Pursuing his hobby electronics in the Home Brew computer club Creating the first Mac with Steve Wozniack
Starting NeXT during his wilderness years. Using NeXT’s operating system as a core in the new MAC operating system
Lifelong passion for music (particularly U2, Beatles, John Lennon) Launch of iTunes

Many are quick to label parts of Steve Jobs’ life as the ‘lost’ or ‘wilderness’ years. However, when we view his life in retrospect, we see that his diversions were critical to his success.

What is labeled as the magic of Steve Jobs or the quirks of his character become replicable principles we can all follow.

It is from this vantage point that we can begin to understand the following quote from a Steve Jobs interview for Wired in 1995:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.

It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.

So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Throughout human history, all societies including our own have created myths that share one common element, the hero’s journey.

Here’s what the journey looks like according to Joseph Campbell, the originator of the term…

Things are going great. You feel normal and fit in. Then something, happens and you change. You start to feel like an outsider in your own culture. You hide parts of yourself to fit in, but that doesn’t help. You feel called to leave and fulfill part of yourself, but that has a lot of uncertainty. So, you hesitate at first.

Finally, you take the plunge. You go through difficult times as you’re learning to navigate the new world. Finally, you overcome the challenges. Then, you go back to your old culture and have a huge impact because you share the unique insights you’ve learned.

The hero’s journey myth is embedded in everything from our society’s classic movies (i.e., Star Wars) to the heroes we glorify (i.e., Steve Jobs). because it hits on core parts of the human experience.

The field of network science shows us two things. The hero’s journey is the blueprint for creating career success. We can all be heroes. It just takes a little faith as you follow your heart and curiosity into unknown worlds. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Has building an open network worked or not worked for you? I’d love to hear about your story in the comments and potentially share it in a future article.

Michael Simmons writes at MichaelDSimmons.com and is co-founder of Empact. To receive more articles like this one, visit his blog.




The One Thing You Should Know About How To Deeply Connect With Anyone

Nov 26, 2014


August 27, 2000 was one of the most important days of my life.

I was loving my newfound independence and soaking in my second day of orientation at NYU. Little did I know that I would meet my future wife that evening. A group of guys I was with connected with a group of girls she was with. The night unfolded from there.

I often say it was the luckiest day of my life. If we hadn’t met then, we never would have. NYU has tens of thousands of students.

However, I recently learned that the story I’ve been telling myself is wrong. How we meet the most important people in our life personally and professionally (including how I met my wife) is not random.

According to research by Brian Uzzi, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at the Kellogg School of Management and one of the world’s top network scientists, there is a common origin that most of the important relationships in our life have, and most people are completely unaware of it.

To understand the gravity of what I’ve just said, think of the most important people in your personal and professional life. What would your life be like without them? Now, imagine if you could increase the odds of meeting more people like them. Imagine the impact that those people could have on your career and life!

The Perils Of Being Too Strategic

Photo Credit: AP
Photo Credit: AP

Based on Brian’s research, here is the approach most people take consciously or unconsciously when strategically building a network:

  • Identify the most important qualities they’re looking for in the people in their network (often the same qualities they already have).
  • Look for others who share those qualities.
  • Find those new people through people they already know.

Here’s the problem with this… You’ll very rapidly build a network of people just like you; people who speak the same slang, have had the same experiences, and even have the same skills. The problem with this is that having a diverse network is critical to success and creativity.

Secondly, the network you build will lack the dynamism of the real world. In Brian’s words, “Future challenges are unforeseeable and therefore impossible to plan for. People who self-select their network contacts too much, build weak networks that don’t adapt to new conditions very well. A weak network turns challenges into liabilities. A strong network tunes challenges into opportunities.”

So, if being too strategic is bad, then what is the solution?

Studies Show How We Really Build Deep Relationships

Photo Credit: Brian Uzzi
Photo Credit: Brian Uzzi

The answer for Brian is obvious based on nearly 100 research papers he’s published over the last two decades on networks…It’s shared experiences.

Think about the 10 most important relationships in your life besides your immediate family. How did you meet them? It’s likely that you met many of them through shared experiences (college dorms, sports, collaborative teams, passion projects, etc).

But not all shared experiences are created equal…

“The clue to the types of shared experiences that are most potent lies in the formation of the famous relationship between Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They didn’t develop their relationship over a business deal as you might expect. They developed it through a shared activity that the two men shared a deep passion for — the game of bridge. Since then, they’ve become kindred spirits and collaborated on several levels. Warren Buffett has committed $40B+ of his wealth to the Gates Foundation.”

Through years of research, Brian has found that the most powerful shared experiences are those where you build deep trust, get to know people at a deep level, and are exposed to a diverse array of people. He found that the three qualities that create these the most are:

Key #1: Passion

According to Brian, experiences based on people’s passions are important for two reasons:

  • People (even busy people) make time for their passions.
  • People like other people more when they display their passions.

“This happens for two reasons (1) Sometimes having a passion is a deeply personal and intimate aspect of a person’s essence, so expressing it to others creates sentiments of acceptance and authenticity in the person expressing their passion. (2) We like passionate people. Both the excitement and the knowledge behind the passion are contagious.”

I learned that power of passion to transform experiences while I was at NYU. At first, I selected all of my classes based on how passionate I was about the topic. However, I quickly learned that a dull professor could ruin whole areas of study for me. Instead, I started picking professors based on how passionate they were. Their passion was contagious and my whole college experience was transformed. This strategy culminated in me taking and loving a course called Baseball As A Road To God taught by President John Sexton.

Key #2: Interdependence

The second key to a meaningful shared experiences is being in situations where there is a common goal or passion that can only be satisfied jointly with other people.

In Brian’s words, “Trust is normally a slow and long process to build. However, through shared activities that require interdependence you quickly recognize ‘I can’t do it alone’ or ‘I can’t win it’ without the other person.’  In short, you recognize how the other person is meaningful to you.  And all lasting relationships are built on a foundation of meaningfulness.”

When I reflect back on meeting my wife, the conditions were perfect. We were each starting from scratch with our network in a completely new city. This made us much more open to meeting new people. Together, we were able to confidently embrace a new phase of life in one of the largest cities in the world.

Key #3: Competition

“Finally, in a shared activity there has to be some gradation of winning/losing or doing better/worse. Competition brings out meaningful behavior, stretches you, and reveals your top level of performance to yourself and others. In addition, it exposes your softer intrinsic qualities like confidence, resilience, and empathy. Deep down, learning someone’s essence is what we want in relationships.” As an example, in a study of Northwestern students Brian performed, he found that the majority of MBA students formed their deepest relationship on sports team, not in class.

This finding also matches classic research in social psychology, which shows that when we’re in a heightened physical state, we feel closer to people that we already have some level of connection to.

Take Action Now

Now, that you’re armed with this fundamentally unique relationship building approach, how do you apply it to your network?

The next time that you’re invited to an event with elements of passion, interdependence, and competition, realize that it’s a rare opportunity to build deep relationships. For example, in 2014, I went to a few amazing events that curate this type of environment, and they had a big impact on me; Mastermind TalksCadre DCHIVE, and the Young Investor Organization’s community within the annual Milken Global Conference.

When you want to catch up with someone, don’t just meet at a cafe or in your office. Turn it into an experience. For example, Charlie Hoehn, author of Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety turns meetings into walks and even playing catch. Joey Coleman, the Chief Experience Composer of Design Symphony has created and teaches a replicable process anyone can use to turn interactions with their customers into experiences.

Want to take things a level deeper? Create your own experiences for others.

And who knows, you could meet your future spouse during a shared experience, just like I did.

It’s not just about who’s at the table. It’s about the shape of it as well.




How To Win Friends And Influence People In The Digital Age

Sep 17, 2014


Credit: Don Hankins / Flickr

Credit: Don Hankins / Flickr

How we build relationships has fundamentally changed as a result of the Internet. Yet few people realize the implications. Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic, How To Win Friends & Influence People, has helped tens of millions of people build in-person relationships. We need new universal principles for building relationships online.

Throughout human history, the predominant way we’ve built relationships is through real-time conversation. This throne is about to be taken over if it hasn’t already been.

As I wrote about in Why Creating Content Trumps Face-To-Face Meetings, the new king of the land is content.

Beers at the bar has become status updates. The shift is easy to belittle, but we should pay respect. Creating content is far more important than most of us realize.

Our content (the photos, videos, audio, articles, and status updates) can reach many more people than we ever could one-on-one, reflect our most authentic self, and distill our deepest wisdom. It serves as a beacon for kindred spirits and business collaborators by sharing who we are and what we know. If done right, it accelerates relationships by months and years.

We all now have a god-like ability to to instantly publish our thoughts to our global network with the click of a button.

However, a voice does not a singer make. Most of us are squandering the tools we’ve been given and blaming it on the tools rather than ourselves.

As opposed to bringing people closer, many times we unintentionally push others away and possibly make them feel depressed by using our abilities to erect trophy walls and highlight reels of ourselves and our companies.

How do we get over this awkwardness and build authentic relationships online?

Getting Over The Awkward Teenage Years Of Content

Throughout all of human history, it has only been in the past five years that a significant percentage of society has started consistently creating content. In other words, we are currently in eight A.S.U. (after status updates).

We are in the awkward teenage years of learning how to communicate online. And sometimes, it is no less awkward than those years were for most of us.

During my most awkward phase of high school, I did everything I could to fit my idealized image of popularity. I threw away my sweatpants for a whole new wardrobe at Abercrombie & Finch, including a scarf I wore indoors. I started taking creatine and lifting weights daily so I could have a six pack and ‘guns’. Finally, I bought a library of VHS videos from Amazon.com on how to dance, including everything from hip-hop to Salsa. None of it worked.

My life changed when I learned a very simple set of principles; ‘Listen more than you talk’, ‘Smile’, ‘Remember people’s names’, and ‘Encourage others to talk about themselves’. Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People unlocked a whole new dimension of connection I had seen others have, but never experienced myself.

dale_carnegie

Here’s the problem; the Internet did not exist when Dale Carnegie was alive.

In-person we know who we’re talking to and how they feel about what we’re saying. It is easy to hold attention. Online the audience is invisible and distracted.

We need a new set of universal principles that help us build authentic relationships in the digital era.

The 12 Commandments Everyone Should Follow To Build Relationships Online

Much has been written about the art and science of creating content in the fields of journalism and content marketing. Little has been written about ‘content relationship building’, creating content specifically designed to build authentic network.

The following 12 principles, developed from personal experience and interviewing top content relationship builders, can be used to win friends and influence people online:

  • Principle 1: Pick A Platform That Reflects Your Strengths. Each form of expression (audio vs. video vs. text vs. photos) requires time to find your voice on and understand the intricacies of. Some platforms are better suited to who you are than others. Start with one platform, master it, and then move on to others.

  • Principle 2: Share Your Inside Story. Be just as transparent with your inside story (challenges and learnings) as you are with your outside story (results and successes). Paradoxically, the things we’re most afraid to share are often what connect us the most with others.

  • Principle 3: Identify Your Biggest Counterintuitive Insights About The World. Deepen your most valuable insights about the world so they are clear, convincing and useful to others rather than generic (ie – work hard, follow your passion). As doers, we consciously learn things until they become automatic. Then, we forget about them. This is more efficient. However, if you want to share your unique insights in a way that is valuable for other people, you need to deconstruct your lessons learned.

  • Principle 4: Know The Truths You’d Be Willing To Die For (Or At Least Sacrifice For). Online there is a temptation and an ability to create a version of ourselves that we think others want to see, but that does not reflect who we truly are. This may work in the short-run, but it ultimately leads to you feeling like a fraud and being perceived as less trustworthy by others. Identify the values that are most important to you and that you actually consistently follow through on.

  • Principle 5: Prepare To Present, Not Have Conversations. Communicating online is more like a speech than a conversation. Take the time to modify how you express yourself so it reflects your most authentic self. This extra time can actually help you be more authentic, rather than less.

  • Principle 6: Learn How To Tell Your Story Through The Content You Create. Learn the grammar of storytelling. We are hardwired to pay attention to and understand stories. There are underlying, learnable patterns to great stories such as having a relatable main character and a plot with a conflict, turning point, and resolution.

  • Principle 7: Cultivate Digital Self-Awareness. Take the time to understand how your content is interpreted by others. The feedback mechanisms (comments/likes/shares vs. tonality/body language/facial expression) are completely different online than they are offline. The challenge of the Internet is that most of the audience is invisible and gives no feedback. If you don’t proactively counteract this lack of data, you could delude yourself into a reality that does not exist.

  • Principle 8: Respond To All Commenters In The Beginning. Only a small percentage of your audience actually interacts with your posts. Examine the pros and cons of different approaches and commit to one. It is often more important, easier, and more rewarding to be very active when you’re just getting started. As you get larger, there are more comments than you have time to respond to. Furthermore, there are trolls who posts negative comments no matter what you do.

  • Principle 9: Focus On Your Headline. The most read words of your writing will be your headline. The second most read will be the very first sentence. Invest your time accordingly. There is a learnable science of virality.

  • Principle 10: Find Your Voice That Is Uniquely You. Practice finding a match between your authentic voice and resonating with an audience.

  • Principle 11: Communicate Like You’re Talking To A Friend (Or At Least A Human). Drop roles and labels (ie – customer, acquaintance), and treat people with as much thoughtfulness, kindness and integrity as you would a friend.

  • Principle 12: Create Content That You’d Want Yourself. Think of creating content as connecting personally and deeply with kindred spirits, not broadcasting for the masses. If you treat people like a mass audience, they’ll respond in-kind.

The Meek Shall Inherit The Internet

The skillsets required for having a great conversation are different than those required for creating seminal content. Therefore, there will be new winners and losers in the online world.

Quiet people might be overlooked in-person, but shine online. In the offline world, things like our height make a surprisingly big impact on our success. Online, our height is invisible.

Ultimately, those who are able to successfully and consistently capture people’s attention for their ideas, causes, and businesses will be those who deliberately practice the skillset needed to be successful in this new world.

The hardest part of practicing isn’t learning the mechanics of storytelling. It’s the emotional labor of sharing who you are and what you think with the world. It’s being vulnerable. It’s constantly breaking social norms in order to be true to yourself. It’s sharing ideas that you believe to be true, but that no one else knows or agrees with…yet. It’s not being sure how other people will respond. It’s not knowing if you’ve crossed a line until you’ve hit publish.

How To Practice The Hard Part Of Building Relationships Online

In June 2010, Dr. Brené Brown made one of the most important decisions of her career. She was going to be delivering a TED talk later that month on her vulnerability research. She was tempted to just share her research results. Instead, she decided to also share her personal struggle with vulnerability. This approach deeply connected with the audience in the room and audiences across the world digitally. Taking this risk was not easy. In her words, “I woke up the morning after I gave that Talk with the worst vulnerability hangover of my life. And I actually didn’t leave my house for about three days.” 16 million people later, her words have had a huge impact on the world.

It’s easy to turn feelings of uneasiness into an excuse for why it’s not worth the risk. Here’s the problem, if you play it safe, you could be robbing the world of you and your message.

NYU professor, Terri Senft, who coined the term microcelebrity, provides a valuable set of questions to ask yourself in order to help you navigate this new path:


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This article is part of a series on how to create content that builds authentic online relationships. Upcoming articles will explain how to apply all of the principles shared in this article. To receive those articles, you can subscribe to my newsletter.

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This article was originally published on Forbes




Why Creating Content Trumps Face-To-Face Meetings

Aug 25, 2014


On a recent Halloween, Caitlin Seida dressed up as Lara Croft, one of her favorite video game characters. Later that night, she posted a photo of herself to Facebook (see below). She thought nothing of it.

Little did she know that while she was asleep the photo was spreading across the Internet.

When she awoke in the morning, she quickly discovered the surprise. At first she thought it was funny. That was until she saw people’s comments (i.e., ‘Fridge Raider’ ‘What A Waste Of Space’).

This story represents people’s worst fear on social media; posting something that seemed OK in context, only to later turn into the subject of viral shaming. What makes this story scary is that it could happen to any us.

Our society is quickly moving from the broadcast era to the social media era and viral shaming is just one of the results.

However, there’s an even bigger implication. You should be aware of it, because it has a much larger impact on your life than you may realize.

caitlin2
(Credit: Courtesy of Caitlin Seida)

The Medium Is The Message

In 1964, famous media critic, Marshall Mcluhan, coined a phrase that is just as relevant today as it was when it was shared 50 years ago: “The Medium Is The Message.”

What McLuhan meant was that the way content is delivered is actually more impactful than the content itself. However, we generally notice the impact of the content and ignore the impact of the medium.

Much has been written about social media’s impact on our attentionhappiness, and our existing relationships.

However, all of these articles miss one big thing.

The broadcast era created celebrities out of musicians, actors, tv and personalities. The social media era turns us all into microcelebrities. Here’s what this means for your life.

The Surprising Power Of Tribal Ties

In 1973, Mark Granovetter published a seminal study called The Strength of Weak Ties. Defying conventional logic, his research showed that weak ties are actually more influential in parts of our lives than strong ties (e.g. getting a job).

Forty-one-plus years later, it’s time for us to consider the surprising strength of an even weaker tie, what I will call the “tribal tie.

closetie

Weak and strong ties are people we personally know through one-on-one interactions. Tribal ties are people we don’t know, but who follow us (fans).

Tribal ties are built by creating useful content (art, photos, articles, books, music, videos, social media posts, etc.). This includes everything from a photo on Facebook, a podcast on iTunes, a video on Youtube, to a long-form article on Medium. Your tribal ties are your fans who resonate with the content you put into the world.

The professional implication of tribal ties is a large tribe of people who form the foundation of and receive the benefit of everything we do throughout our career. They help to co-create, fund, and spread what we release into the world.

The personal implication is a richer life that attracts diverse perspectives and meaningfully impacts many thousands.

Just as we all invest in our relationships with strong and weak ties throughout our life, we can invest in our tribal ties by creating content.

Here’s why you should consider making that investment…

Why Everyone Should Always Invest In Their Tribal Ties

 I know that this is a long shot, but does anybody happen to know a CEO of a NASDAQ or NYSE listed company?

This was the beginning of a recent request I made to my Facebook network for our upcoming Empact Showcase event. I put it up as a last resort. I figured I wouldn’t get a response. Surprisingly, I got many within a few hours.

Even more surprisingly, most of the people that offered help, including the person that ultimately helped, were people that I didn’t know or that I met in passing.

Ultimately, Liana Taylor, who works at NASDAQ and who I met briefly after a speaking engagement in 2005, responded with the winning introduction. When I asked her why she helped, she responded:

I felt that this is something where I could help. Honestly I didn’t have an end goal in mind. I love to connect people and help when I can.

As far as why you specifically? I don’t go out of my way helping people who I don’t like or respect although if it’s a life or death situation, I would help anyone. After being Facebook friends with you for many years, I think I’ve gotten a peek at your character (or maybe you just put on a good show), which I like and respect. Given this, if there is something I could help you with, I’ll do it any day and don’t really need anything in return.

This one example illustrates the power and serendipity of tribal ties when you consistently create and share content that reflects your character and shares your insights.

The Amazing and Unexpected Scale And Impact Of Creating Content

Over the past year, I’ve written extensively on the art and science of building authentic relationships. I’ve written about the power of everything from cultivating one-on-one relationships and making introductions to organizing dinners. I’ve interviewed many of the world’s top relationship builders and researchers and then applied what I’ve learned in order to share the most powerful ways to build relationships. Ironically, what I’ve found to be most impactful has been the act of writing itself.

How could I miss something that was right in front of me for all along?

The answer is that I never looked at writing as a form of relationship building, and it’s not surprising why. As I write these words, I’m sitting alone in my living room. It feels like the opposite of ‘true’ relationship building that I’ve grown up with; real-time conversation.

However, I’m not sure that my 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son will grow up with this same bias. A lot of the communication in their lifetime will be through social media. Many of the words they write, pictures they share, and videos they upload will not be in real-time, and the recipients will be unknown in advance.

As I’ve let go of my pre-existing definition of what an authentic relationship is, I’ve learned one important lesson. What creating content lacks in one-on-one connection, it more than makes up for in size, impact, action, and depth:

  • Content Scale Exponentially More Than One-On-One Relationships. There is no more scalable way to share who we are with the world than creating content. Each in-person meeting you have takes time to have and to upkeep afterwards. Content doesn’t. We don’t have to write a new article for each person we meet. Our tribal ties have the potential to be several orders of magnitude larger and more diverse than our weak and strong ties.

    For example, it likely that 10,000 people will eventually read this article. Let’s assume that the average person spends two minutes reading it. Timewise, that’s equivalent to spending over 8 weeks connecting with people one-on-one.

    chart_time_investment

  • Even Though Content Isn’t Personal, It Can Be Life-Changing. Are there any books, articles, interviews, or songs that have changed your life? Sharing your insights and personal experiences can be deeply transformative for someone’s life even if you don’t interact with them personally.

    Because content is asynchronous, it gives us a lot of time to refine what we truly want to say and make sure it has the most impact. It’s taken me over 30 hours to write this article, and it will only take you a few minutes to read it. It is the culmination of many hours of research, interviews, writing, reflection, and feedback. There is no way that I could have spontaneously shared everything in a conversation.

  • Tribal Ties Sometimes Help You More Than You’re Closest Friends. Counterintuitively, sometimes the people who are closest to us, are not our biggest fans. One doesn’t have to to look further than the early stages of a romantic relationship to understand this. Someone in the courtship stage goes out of their way deepen the relationship in a way that the average married couple does not. In the same way, a superfan, someone who doesn’t really know us at all might be the first person in line when we release anything new or publicly ask for help on a project.

  • Content Deepens Relationships With People You Already Know. Writing has not only helped me build tribal ties, it has unexpectedly led to the dramatic deepening of my relationships in two ways. First, my writing has often preceded my first meeting with someone. This means that the meeting starts with trust and respect. Second, it has accelerated my relationships with people I already know. It has done this by helping them learn more about other parts of my journey and the lessons I’ve learned along the way that I might not normally bring up in conversation.

The Invisible Tie That Can Make Or Break Us

The increasing importance of tribal ties can be easy to miss. Most social media users are observers, so they’re invisible. However, underestimate these ties at your own peril.

We often realize the power of our tribal at the extremes; when something we create spreads virally into a virtual shame storm or a positive story that deepens the network as was the case with Caitlin Seda.

Caitlin’s story has an happy ending. After a period of shock and depression, she decided to write an article for Salon.com that actually became more viral than the original photo of her. In the article, My embarrassing picture went viral,  she owns her experience fully, even going so far as to repost the photo. She ends the article with sharing her lessons learned, “But I refuse to disappear. I still go jogging in public. I don’t hide my flabby arms or chubby ankles for fear of offending someone else’s delicate sensibilities. I dress in a way that makes me happy with myself. And this Halloween, I’m thinking of reprising my role as Lara Croft just to give all the haters the middle finger.”

The content we create will increasingly play a fundamental role in how we build relationships. It is often our first impression for people we’ve never met and our second impression after we’ve met someone for the first time.

Face-to-face meetings will continue to be the best way to build deep emotional one-on-one relationships. However, creating content trumps face-to-face meetings for building tribal ties. People already understand the power of face-to-face meetings, but they rarely understand the importance consistently creating content. By creating useful content, we all have an opportunity to not only deepen our weak and strong ties, but also to build an entirely new network of tribal ties that play a critical role throughout our entire life.

This article was originally published on Forbes




On The Vulnerability Of Shipping

Aug 21, 2014


The Forbes article I published yesterday didn’t live up to my hopes for it, and I don’t know why. It has put a shadow over my last two days.

I’m not proud of how my subsconscious is choosing to interpret the situation. I’ve found myself unconsciously checking the number of page views several times a day (ok – maybe an hour), hoping for a surprise. Then when I see that nothing has changed, I feel a little bit worse about my day.

I downloaded an app last night that makes it so that I can’t visit social media to see the stats. It worked…for a few hours. Then I found a way to bypass it.

These thoughts and feelings are part of me, but they are not me.

I did not choose to have them. I do not agree with them, but they are there. So the ball’s in my court for how to respond.

I put my heart and soul into each article, because I love learning, writing, sharing, and connecting. I hope each will have an impact. But, every time I press publish on an article, I feel vulnerable.

Part of me attaches my self-worth to the response. When something catches on, I feel really good. When something doesn’t, I don’t.

I appreciate the opportunity to observe these thoughts and feelings with some level of detachment so they can be my teacher.

I appreciate myself for creating and releasing things into the world that I’m proud of even when I do feel vulnerable.

As an artist, I put an intention into the world to continue to cultivate two qualities:

  1.  To not attach my self-worth to other people’s response to my work.
  2. To methodically understand what works and what doesn’t and continue to be a better communicator.



How We Build Relationships Online Will Make Or Break Us All

Aug 21, 2014


I’d like to share a big decision that I made a few months ago…

I shifted my writing focus to building authentic relationships ONLINE.

Building relationships online is such a fascinating and CRITICAL topic that I think we should all care about.

Here’s what personally gets me passionate enough to devote so much time on it:

It’s new phenomenon in society that’s evolving rapidly, and there are a lot of mixed opinions on whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.

A lot has been written about content marketing and turning people into customers. But, surprisingly very little has been written about how to build authentic relationships online.

This is a shame…

In a world where we’re making decisions online about who we hook up with (Grindr), marry (eHarmony), work with (LinkedIn) or build a relationship with (Facebook), the topic of online relationship building is critical now and only will be more so in the future. I’ve written about this shift on Forbes at http://onforb.es/1sHQIp2 and http://onforb.es/1lC9huH.

Yesterday, I published an article that I’d love for you to read if you haven’t already. It will only take a few minutes.

Here’s the premise:

In 1964, famous media critic, Marshall Mcluhan, coined a phrase that is just as relevant today as it was when it was shared 50 years ago: “The Medium Is The Message.”

What McLuhan meant was that the way content is delivered is actually more impactful than the content itself. However, we generally notice the impact of the content and ignore the impact of the medium.

Much has been written about social media’s impact on our attention, happiness, and our existing relationships.

However, all of these articles miss one big thing.

The broadcast era created celebrities out of musicians, actors, tv and personalities. The social media era turns us all into microcelebrities.

In the article, I explain why we’re now microcelebrities and what to do about it.

You can read it at http://onforb.es/1lhywUI.

What do you think are the biggest implications of our society increasingly building relationships online?




How To Bulletproof Your Reputation In The Digital Age

Aug 19, 2014


“I date younger men… Predominantly men in their twenties… And when I date younger men, I have sex with younger men,” Cindy Gallop shared matter-of-factly.

Except this wasn’t a private conversation with a close friend. It was on the stage of TED’s main conference talking to hundreds of the smartest people in the world and the 800,000+ people that would go on to watch her video. It certainly wasn’t what you’d expect from a former senior advertising executive (49 at the time) and the former chair of the board at international advertising agency, BBH.

Cindy Gallop wasn’t being spontaneous. She was making one of the most calculated decisions of her career as a way to launch her new company, MakeLoveNotPorn.

(Credit: ioulex photography)
(Credit: ioulex photography)

Many of today’s top entrepreneurial leaders are making similar decisions to Cindy’s. They are deeply sharing who they are and what they believe with the world. Everyone from Tony Hsieh (founder of Zappos), Gary Vaynerchuk (co-founder of Vayner Media), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Jacqueline Novogratz (founder of Acumen Fund), Richard Branson, Jason Fried (co-founder of 37 signals), to Arianna Huffington (co-founder of the Huffington Post) are using books, blogs, social media, and speaking engagements to share their inside world while building their companies as the same time.

To understand why this increasingly makes sense in the digital age, we need to understand the explosion of online reputation platforms.

The Explosion Of Online Reputation Platforms

Online reputation platforms help others understand who we are, what we do, and what we own by organizing and publicly displaying related word-of-mouth. They help individuals make better decisions and facilitate exchanges that would never happen otherwise. How crazy was renting our most sacred space, our home, to a complete stranger before Airbnb!

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.22.24 PM.png

The platforms that exist now are just the beginning. Every year, we’re collectively doubling what we proactively share about ourselves on social media and what we allow our devices to share about us. Now, for example, it is even possible to put a device in your car that shares your driving information in order to lower your car insurance rate.

We as as a society have not fully grasped the significance of this explosion…yet.

What It All Means

On the popular review website, Yelp, a Harvard study showed that a one-star difference in a restaurant rating impacts revenue between 5% and 9%. If you use Yelp, when was the last time you selected a restaurant with a bad reputation or no reputation? The Yelp for your industry is coming if it hasn’t already. It is impacting what jobs you get, the contracts you’re offered, your admission into schools and programs, and even what friends, significant other and romances you attract into your life.

Every reputation platform seems irrelevant at first. Then, it becomes a nice, useful tool. Finally, it becomes the price to play in the field. When this happens, having no reputation is as much of a red flag as a bad reputation.

Joe Fernandez, the founder of the largest reputation platform measuring influence, Klout, learned this firsthand in October 2011. Klout changed its algorithm in order to improve the quality of the overall score.  As a result, some people’s scores changed significantly. He expected some backlash, but he was in no way prepared for what actually occurred.

First, an #OccupyKlout hashtag was created.

We can’t stand idly by while #Klout downgrades AMERICA. #OccupyKlout

— Occupy Klout (@OccupyKlout) October 26, 2011

Next, his cell phone was leaked and he received hundreds of death threats.

That’s when Joe realized the importance of reputation platforms. In his words,

In the future, people won’t just have one score. There will be multiple scores and people might live and die by those scores. The good thing about all of this is that social data has been democratized. You can control your reputation. The top ways to build your online reputation are to keep make sure your profile reflects who you are and is up-to-date, to be authentic in how you portray yourself, and to be consistent in what you say.

Here’s what you need to understand about what all of this means:

  • Your online reputation is your reputation.  People are using the first impression they have of you from the Internet to decide whether they connect with you and how they act toward you when they do.

    In short, your online reputation will precede you. Ben Huh, the founder of CHEEZburger, put it like this during an interview I had with him, “I’d like to think that we’re getting into a world where we’re understanding more about the substance of a person rather than just their biology. While we’re no longer in the wild, biology still drives a lot of decision making. For example, you still hear things like, ‘men who are taller tend to rise more quickly in their career’. At its face value, that’s ridiculous, but it also turns out that it’s true. We’re moving away from biology as our first impression. This is actually a good thing.”

  • Who you are in one area will be how you’re perceived in all areas. Reputation platforms scale your reputation. In the past, reputation was solely determined by word-of-mouth in a small community or by our one-on-one interactions. In this context, word-of-mouth diminishes quickly over time and distance. Now, our reputations can be seen by everyone everywhere. It is always a Google search away.

  • Other people can more easily make their opinions of you go viral. Whether online or offline, we ultimately can’t control what other people say about us or the context in which they say it. However, what’s unique in the online world is that it is easier than ever for others to make those opinions widely known. This can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.

The implications of the future of online reputation aren’t innately good or bad. What matters is how you handle the shift.

Thus, a new question arises, “How do we best build our personal reputations in this new age?”

To Play It Safe Or To Play It Real?

In writing this article, I had the opportunity to interview several people who’ve seen the shift coming for years and have found ways to prosper in it. Over the past year, I’ve explored this for myself as I’ve opened up about my life and lessons learned online.

If I had to boil everything down into one idea it comes down to the following words that Cindy shared with me:

If you identify exactly who you are and what you stand for, what you believe in, what you value, and if you then only ever behave, act and communicate in a way that is true to you, then you never have to worry about when anybody comes across you or what you’re found doing, because by definition you are never caught doing anything to be ashamed of.

By publicly sharing her sexuality with the world, a topic that’s an important part of her life and purpose, Cindy is putting a beacon out in the world. That beacon attracts people who ‘get’ her, and it distances or has no impact on people who don’t.

In so doing, Cindy is building an authentic network; a network of kindred spirits around her who deeply value her for for who she is. Kindred spirits are people we connect with at a very deep level and who play a transformative role throughout our life. As entrepreneurs, this means vendors, partners, employees, investors, mentors, and customers with shared values. Cindy has entered a virtuous cycle of success and fulfillment where being herself is rewarded because that’s what people want and expect. She doesn’t have to worry about other people discovering who she really is. She has already ‘outed’ herself.

Most people have the opposite of authentic networks; default networks. Default networks are the networks we fall into and then try to fit into. If we continually operate in a way where we feel like we need to be inauthentic in order to be successful or appreciated, we’ll feel like a fraud, be less authentic (therefore less trustworthy), and less passionate (therefore less effective). Ultimately, a vicious cycle will occur where we attract and ultimately become financially dependent on a network of people who do not reflect our deepest values.

The Perils Of Personal Transparency

Choosing to start MakeLoveNotPorn has not come without costs though. In Cindy’s words:

Every piece of business infrastructure that any other startup can take for granted, we can’t at MakeLoveNotPorn, because the small print always says, ‘No adult content’. For example, I couldn’t find a single bank here in America that would allow me to open a business bank account for a business that has the word ‘porn’ in its name and that does what we do. Putting payments systems in place is a huge operational challenge. PayPal won’t touch us. Amazon.com won’t either. None of the major credit card processors will. The same thing with trying to find an email partner to send our membership emails out with. We had to build our entire video sharing and video streaming platform from scratch because off-the-shelf video streaming platforms like Brightcove won’t work with adult content.

As Cindy went through all the challenges, a question kept on coming up in my head, “Why not remove ‘porn’ from the name if it is causing so many challenges?”

Before I could ask the question, Cindy answered it, “The more I encountered all of these obstacles that I had never anticipated, the more I realized how every single one of them represented how enormously important it is that we do what we do, which is make real world sex socially acceptable and socially sharable.”

The risk anyone faces of being more visible and unique in the online environment is trolls, individuals who use snark to put others down and who often hide behind the veil of anonymity. After Cindy spoke at TED, TED did not post Cindy’s talk because of the content. Eventually, they posted it on Youtube, but disabled the comment stream. After she asked for the comments to be enabled, over 3,000 comments streamed in. Cindy took the time to respond personally to 90% of those comments. Most of the negative comments were from young men, and when she engaged them, they either apologized publicly or through a private message, although some kept on going no matter what she did.

The overwhelming response to the talk was positive both online and offline.

Cindy doesn’t regret her choice to live a more transparent life; not even for a second.

Even with intellectually understanding the power of Cindy’s approach, it still feels risky to be vulnerable online. When I write more openly, my mind starts running through worst case scenarios that all have the same plot; if I share xyz about myself, people will not accept me. I will lose friends I want to keep and I will lose business that I can’t afford to lose.

It wasn’t until I read Nassim Taleb’s words that I fully understood how ‘un-risky’ Cindy’s way of being is.

Don’t Aim To Be Perfect! Aim To Be Antifragile

Nassim Taleb, co-director of the Research Center For Risk Engineering at NYU and New York Times bestselling author of the book, The Black Swan, is not afraid to share what he really thinks and put his reputation on the line. The first sentence of his website boldly states:

Ethics: “If you see fraud and don’t shout fraud, you are a fraud”.

In his most recent book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, you are definitely not left wondering what he actually thinks.

He takes on prominent economists who make bad predictions that cause taxpayers a lot of money, have no skin of their own in the game, and cherry pick and publicize their predictions that did come true. When talking about seeing Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and Nobel-prize winner at the World Economic Forum, he describes himself as feeling physically sick and nauseous. For Nobel-prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, he coined a phrase ‘Stiglitz Syndrome’.

How does someone get away with saying his thoughts so directly and yet be so respected?

Nassim has built an antifragile reputation.

As he explains in the book, things that are fragile break when they’re exposed to stressors. A glass vase is the perfect example. If you drop it, it breaks. With fragile objects, you want to keep them as safe as possible.

Things that are robust do not change when exposed to stressors.

Nassim’s contribution is the introduction of a third category; antifragile. Antifragile things actually want stress up to a point, because they become stronger with it. Our bodies are a perfect example. We grow muscle by exposing it to lots of resistance.

As we enter a world where there is more and more uncertainty and where other people have control over our reputations, becoming antifragile by ‘outing’ yourself may be the best approach to building our reputation.

In his book, Nassim recommends:

Some jobs and professions are fragile to reputational harm, something that in the age of the Internet cannot possibly be controlled – these jobs aren’t worth having. You do not want to “control” your reputation; you won’t be able to do it by controlling information flow. Instead focus on altering your exposure, say, by putting yourself in a position impervious to reputational damage. Or even put yourself in a situation to benefit from the antifragility of information. In that sense, a writer is antifragile [benefitted by a stressor]…

[...]

Now let’s say I were a midlevel executive employee of some corporation listed on the London Stock Exchange, the sort who never take chances by dressing down, always wearing a suit and tie (even on the beach). What would happen to me if I attack the fragilista? My firing and arrest record would plague me forever. I would be a total victim of informational antifragility. But someone earning close to minimum wage, say, a construction worker or a taxi driver, does not overly depend on his reputation and is free to have his own opinions. He would be merely robust [not hurt or helped] compared to the artist, who is antifragile. A midlevel bank employee with mortgage would be fragile to the extreme. In fact he would be completely a prisoner of the value system that invites him to be corrupt to the core — because of his dependence on the annual vacation in Barbados. The same with a civil servant in Washington.

The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

The rise of digital reputation platforms is one of the most significant shifts in how people build their reputation in human history.

Beyond industry-specific reputation platforms, there is one major social platform that we all have free access to; social media.

Social publishing platforms have moved beyond traditional social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) and have spread across every corner of the web. This includes everywhere  from audio (ie – Soundcloud and Podcasts), video (ie – Youtube, TED, & Vimeo), slides (ie – SlideShare), links (ie – PandaWhale, Reddit), photos (Pinterest, Instagram), documents (DocStoc, Scribd), to long-form articles (Medium, LinkedIn Pulse).

Social media also is critical because our social media profile links are often the first few results that people see when they Google us.

Entrepreneurs who have the courage to authentically share their unique story and the generosity to share their best insights have an amazing opportunity to quickly build a world-class, antifragile reputation. In so doing, they have an opportunity to build an authentic network of kindred spirits and stakeholders.

This article was originally posted on Forbes