We all have growth challenges that sometimes seem too big or complicated to overcome and resolve. While they might seem intractable and mysterious to us, we are not the first people to face them. Someone, somewhere has dealt with similar obstacles and prevailed. The advice and perspective these people have to offer is worth listening too and acting on. Some of these people are already in our own networks and we only need to reach out. Others we don't know. Who is on your dream list of people you've also wanted to meet, if only just to ask one question?
Success is the net effect of all the smart and stupid shit I've done over a lifetime of personal and professional growth. I owe my position in life and business to a large community of supporters–friends, family, clients, collaborators, mentors and coaches who've collectively made the difference between good and bad decisions, effective and ineffective execution and graceful recovery from what could have been terminal errors.
My inner circle is vested in my well-being and so is yours.
We have history with these people, common ground and mutual goals. My success and happiness is often linked to theirs. In network theory such intimate bonds are called strong ties. While the relationships formed of such strong ties do much of the heavy lifting, they are not the only kind of support we need.
One of my weak ties is Katie Taylor, presently the board chair of the Royal Bank of Canada and formerly the CEO and VP of Training of the Four Seasons Hotel group. While there she had been instrumental in pioneering the legendary customer service and employee engagement mechanisms that eventually became best practices in the luxury hospitality industry. I had her on my list of people I always wanted to meet. When I had the chance to go to lunch with her I was ready with my questions and then shut up and listened. I got two pieces of advice from her that formed the bedrock of my competitive strategy ever since. (I'll keep them secret for now but ask me next time you see me.)
Sometimes the biggest insights come from our weak ties.
One of the best things we can do is keep a running list of smart people we admire. Many of these people are hard to get to but setting the intention makes it more likely we will pounce when the doors of opportunity open. It might also help us figure out craftier ways to get these door open even just a crack.
At the top of this list for me was Colin James. I've always identified with the way he managed his career and I've seen him in concert many times in many different kind of venues. I even crystalized what my calling in life is while I watched him perform on a tiny little stage at the Calgary Stampede one year. Given the significance of the epiphany I had in his presence, I from that moment wanted to meet him and just like any number of geeked-out music fans related what an inspiration he and his music was to me. So I put him on my list.
The outer circle is a list of people we might only meet once.
It took me a few years to engineer a connection with Colin James. I got my chance at the Junos one year. I was there with Brett Wilson to see one of our joint clients win their first Juno. Brett went into have lunch at a hotel restaurant and while sitting in the lobby writing I saw Colin materialize with his wife. I sat there paralyzed with fear as I watched them enter the same restaurant. It took me twenty minutes to calm down and figure out that Brett probably knew him. So I texted Brett and two minutes later he trotted out with my idol. I had a great conversation with Colin James. He is a warm and down-to-earth and actually listened to my story without glazing over. I think he genuinely appreciated learning he had made such an impact on a fellow traveler. Human beings are social creatures. None of us ever get anywhere really interesting by ourselves. We are capable of achieving great things with the support of a diverse network of strong and weak ties.