All things being equal the best connected people are the most successful.
My mother, Mary, always used to say that “bad things always come in threes” so she would be on the look out for the last one once a couple of things had gone wrong that day. More positively perhaps there is a rule of three in literature that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more effective and more satisfying than other numbers: The Three Stooges; Three Little Pigs; Three Billy Goats Gruff; Goldilocks and the Three Bears all spring to mind. There are also three things that, taken together, form the basis of most people’s competitive advantage in life: experience; expertise; and contacts.
I have found that people tend to be most successful if they stick to what they know and they are good at; what they have expertise in, their skill or knowledge in a particular area. We all enjoy doing things that we are good at and the more we enjoy something the likelier we are to be enthusiastic about it and to do it well; a virtuous feedback loop that fuels both drive and achievement. Whether you are an entrepreneur, or a salaryman, you will do best if you target this personal sweet spot. Of course, you have to first recognise it and that is not as easy to do as it may seem and many of us end up in sub-optimal careers where work is somewhat less of a thrill.
The second “leg” of this stool is experience. This is more a reflection of your involvement in some activity, a job, or series of jobs, over time. Experience gives you invaluable insight into social, corporate and commercial ecosystems whose terrain needs to be navigated with skill to exploit them to the full. Clearly, this experience is also a core element of your personal “difference” that can provide you with some advantage over those you are competing with, in whatever setting you find yourself. Whilst that may seem rather obvious it is very common for people to decide that this in-depth knowledge, this experience, is actually something they want to discard, as “in the belly of the beast” there is often a lot of crap to deal with too. I have known many very successful business people who have become disillusioned with their business or industry and told me they were off to “build houses”, assuming that it would be easier. Of course, it only seemed that way because they knew nothing about it, but their “warts and all” experience of their own business, which they were choosing to leave behind, was often truly differentiating.
The third ingredient to personal success is who you know. Personal networks are perhaps the most important differentiator of very able people and, all things being equal, the best connected people are the most successful. This phenomenon is now being recognised by various new businesses, that offer to measure the amount of social influence that individuals have online, as it may make them more valuable to an employer or collaborator. Klout, Peer Index and Kred can help you to grade the quantum and quality of your online connectivity and it is suggested by some that this has real economic value. Whilst there is no doubt that these days your social media activity and profile will be part of most recruitment processes, perhaps we aren’t too far off jobs requiring a certain Klout score too. Klout’s strap line “the standard for influence” clearly proclaims its ambition, but it would be fair to say that not everyone is so convinced.
So, if potential employee’s relationships can be a form of capital then yours can be too. In the corporate world it has even started arguments and lawsuits about who owns your contacts but if you run your own business you don’t have that to worry about: you do, so make the most of them. If you also manage to align and optimise your experience and expertise you may be surprised just how successful you can be.