One of my favorite hobbies and what offers me the most happiness and joy is meeting new people, coordinating connections/introductions between people, and generally helping others with the wherewithal that I presently dispose.
If one were to see that there is a demand/opportunity somewhere, and the supply/resource (in this case, the properly qualified and suitable candidate) in another place, then it would only seem logical to me that a few minutes of one’s time are well worth the effort of connecting these poles via an email, text message, meeting, phone call, or any other medium. After all, we spend these minutes (for instance watching TV) often not doing anything that even begins to touch the far-reaching — and quite frankly life-changing — impact for someone. In business terms: this action adds limitless value. I am absolutely convinced of this. I would go on to say that changing someone’s life is very hard to measure in numbers, hence the word “limitless” next to the value provided.
Quite obviously, there are legitimate business models that revolve around such a service (recruiting agencies) wherein a commission is charged for the service of acting as an intermediary. But I’m not necessarily advocating to act as an intermediary. I’m talking about acting as an enabler — even if this term sounds admittedly somewhat “new age” or “hippy.” It is critically important to recognize that these are two starkly different concepts. One is doing something purely for money, the other is doing it because you can (I do recognize that life is not so easily defined into two broad categories, but for the sake of the point I am simplifying in order to facilitate the discussion). I am more focused on the philosophy behind using the resources available in the 21st century for the individual in order to enable ourselves to do more for others, and in turn for ourselves. What I mean by this can be deduced from the following: haven’t there been (or still are) times in your life when everything is not perfect and you could have used help from someone? It definitely has for me, even as fortunate as I am due to my social support net of friends and family (related blog post). In professional life, and for our purposes, this often comes down to job hunting, especially considering the current worldwide unemployment (my generation, the young, is particularly affected). Yet I do find it useful to ask such a broad question of past (and present) periods of difficulty/hardship as it starts the process of thinking as an enabler. Because then you really appreciate and understand how powerful the act of connecting and helping others can be. And the more people you know — in effect enlarging your circle of influence so to speak — the better you can be at identifying such opportunities and linking this market of “supply” and “demand” in opportunities.
We are indeed in the information age, and our leverage and productivity are very much limitless if we use the tools at our disposal, harness the power of the internet, and make use of the “democratization” of power between organizations, companies, and people (read: you) that has been provided to us in the 21st century through technology and globalization. This is absolutely amazing in my view, and incredibly exciting! Unlimited knowledge is at our fingertips, and knowledge is power. We live in a post-Wikileaks and “Arab Spring” world, as cliché as that sounds and overdone as it has been. We also live in the era where YouTube cat videos generate 74 million views (as of the time of writing). These differing examples are to illustrate that there are two sides of the coin — both the availability of a marked beneficial potential, accompanied by ample room for distraction and what some would call “waste.” Business cycles have shortened, and it is fascinating to see how quickly consumers have adopted smart phones, with all of the related leaps in productivity that high smart phone market penetration may entail (or lack thereof depending on what a user’s habits are – reference to the cat video). And as a result, firms are increasingly investing resources into social media as part of their marketing activities, which is in concert with the prominence of social media’s importance for a company’s reputation and of its brand. I am not going to indulge on this subject as there are far too many books and articles written on it. Nor am I here to brag of how much good I am doing for others or how cool I am by connecting people.
My hope in all of this is that whoever it is reading this will dedicate more thought to how they may help someone they know (be it a friend, family member, an acquaintance, or even a stranger). And then to try it. And then to see how you feel. Then see if you notice any other benefits as a result (happiness, more friends, more confident, others helping you, etc.). I most certainly have.
Use Linkedin, try staying in touch more, and strive to do your best in everything you do. Don’t half-ass stuff, especially when it comes to your life! In other words, invest in social and human capital and realize that human beings are largely social creatures (related blog post about this topic).
Religion aside, the notion of Karma — “what goes around comes around” — can be seen as an incentive to do well and help others, which it most certainly is in an end within itself. To an extent, this behavior is hardwired into our brains, and has been identified as one of the six principles of persuasion: “reciprocity” – returning favors (great video on the “Science of Persuasion”). However, there are quite certainly “fringe benefits” to helping others besides just expecting to receive a service rendered in the future. These are that you tend to be more charismatic and people enjoy being near you. You are well-received and spoken of in a more highly regarded manner. In other words, your reputation is upheld amongst people (we are all too aware of how fast news can spread), which can go a long way in everything from relationships to your career (be it in a corporation or as an entrepreneur). Happiness is correlated to helping others, spending money on others (video), feeling of control over your conditions, and memories from experiences with others. As much as yawning is contagious in humans, the same holds true for happiness (Reuters article on the study confirming that happiness is contagious).
Naturally, there are going to be times when people are going to try to take advantage of your help and exploit you. Fine, there will always be jerks and scam artists. However, on a cost/benefit analysis, it is very apparent to me that it is worth risking the “downside” of someone using me (costing me my several minutes) versus the sheer enormous “upside” of potentially changing someone’s life and enjoying the countless benefits that can come from this — both for the person andfor yourself. It just seems rational to me. Life is not a zero-sum game, it is rather a positive-sum game.
Up to this day, ALL of the jobs I ever had in my life have been through networking or a relationship. This goes all the way back to high school. I’ve literally been in an interview, where the exchange between the interviewer and I went from “why do you want to work here?” to “ah you know so and so — when do you want to start?” You don’t have to believe me, but I am not joking nor am I making this up. The reason for this is because there was an introduction that served as a testament of credibility and trust. As you can see in the video above, authority is a principle of influence and an exceedingly effective way of demonstrating authority is hearing of someone’s qualifications/ability through another source. Hence, if you are associated with someone who has done well, then it will likely ameliorate your image and chance of success in getting hired. Similarly, here is an interesting article discussing a study suggesting employers tend to hire a candidate due to their likability over skills (liking is also another principle of persuasion). We like to be around those whose company we enjoy, as mentioned earlier, and as we can all agree to with our own experiences.
Now with regards to taking action to become an enabler, often it can be a much different story. We tell ourselves we will get back in touch later, that we will are too busy now (good piece on the subject of the “busy trap” from the New York Times). The writer even goes on to say, “Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.” I always try to remind myself that there are a million excuses not to do something, but only one reason to actually go through with it. My mother to this day regrets having told herself that she was too tired one day, which caused her to miss the opportunity to meet the French President of the time, Monsieur François Mitterand. Notice that she’s not relishing in how well she slept, that is just an unimportant detail that has no bearing on her life besides leading her to miss an opportunity that she still thinks about. We often put up barriers and schedule our lives weeks and months in advance, and forget that life is meant to be lived now, not later. The window of opportunity is seldom open for too long. We imagine that the end-game is better, but today is what we have. I’m not encouraging short-sightedness and complete disregard for the future. On the contrary, I am advocating to plan and have structure, but to also be ever mindful of how fragile this life is. The human body made up of flesh and bone, even if we are living in an era of supersonic jets, aircraft carriers, and ever-growing skyscrapers.
Life and the passing of time forces change (related blog post entitled “Navigating Through Life – My Perspective”). Even though we may not like to think about it, our circumstances can change in an instant. And they do, whether we are aware or not. We are mortal beings (at least for now) despite scientific breakthroughs and all of the medicine in the world. So we should behave like it and recognize that we should act now. We all struggle with it, I am definitely no exception to this. Far from it as a matter of fact. But I’m striving to recognize that my time on Earth is limited and I should constantly think of what my mark on the world is when I am gone. Will it be a cat video or will it be a material, positive impact on someone else’s life? So why not act now rather than wait until some further date? Why not see how we can help someone else?
I had one of the top 10 nights of my life yesterday evening. And the reason for this: the people who were there in attendance. I had to quite literally almost force the hand of a few people to convince them to join the festivities. And I can confidently say that they were all very pleased to have come. They all thanked me for inviting them, even though the pleasure was all mine. The atmosphere was simply incredible, excellent people meeting one another and becoming friends while enjoying themselves. And I hope that this will really lead to something positive for everyone involved, as well as those who they know. Alas, the power of social networking. It has already led to an indescribable benefit for me: happiness.
On that note, cheers!