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There has never been a better time to reach out and connect than right now. The dynamic of our society, and particularly our economy, will increasingly be defined by interdependence and interconnectivity. In other words, the more everything becomes connected to everything and everyone else, the more we begin to depend on whom and what we’re connected with.
Rugged individualism may have ruled for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. But community and alliances will rule in the 21st century. In the digital era, when the Internet has broken down geographic boundaries and connected hundreds of millions of people and computers around the world, there’s no reason to live and work in isolation. We’ve come to realize, again, that success is not contingent on cool technology or venture capital; it’s dependent on whom you know and how you work with them. We’ve rediscovered that the real key to profi t is working well with other people.
We’ve taken some lumps getting back to this fundamental truth. All the changes, all the fads, all the technologies of the last decade are too often founded on the human factor, leading the business world to treat people less as human beings than as just so many bits and bytes. We placed our faith in gadgets, processes, new organizational structures, stock market prices. When these things didn’t deliver on their promise, we returned to us, you and me.
TECHNOLOGY ENHANCES OUR CONNECTIONS
Life is about work, work is about life, and both are about people. “The most exciting breakthrough of the 21st century will occur not because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human,” said the futurist John Naisbitt. Technology has proven no substitute for personal relationships. To the contrary, it seems to be enhancing them. Look around you and you’ll see this expanded view of what it means to be human, and how we interact with one another, in action. Here’s just a small sampling:
- The hottest trend these days is found in social-networking software tools, and services like Spoke Software, Plaxo, Ryze, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. People are now finding new ways to use technology to connect people with bonds of trust and friendship. Some are calling it a social revolution.
- Blogs, part of the same phenomenon, are allowing passionate individuals with good content to reach literally millions of other people.
- Social scientists are making remarkable discoveries about the power of social networks. Recent research findings are proving that people who are more connected with other people live longer and are healthier. In communities where people are connected, the schools work better, the crime rate is lower, the economic growth rate is higher. Bringing people together by building personal relationships is far more than a career strategy; it’s increasingly regarded as one of the most effective ways to enhance America’s civic and social health.
- Old-style labor unions and guilds are showing signs of revitalization. As the outsourcing of jobs outside the United States continues, and more and more of us become free agents, Americans are finding strength in membership to something larger than themselves. We’re giving our loyalty and our trust not to companies but to our peers.
That’s just a small taste of what’s to come. We are in the formative stages of a new era of connectivity and community. You now have the skills and knowledge to thrive in this environment. But to what end? How will you thrive? What does it mean to live a truly connected life?
Certainly, some of us will tally success in terms of income and promotions. Others will cite their newfound celebrity or the exciting expertise that they’ve amassed. For others still, it will be the fabulous dinner parties they throw or the aspirational contacts they’ve befriended.
But will such success feel empty? Instead of being surrounded by a loving family and a trusted circle of friends, will you only have colleagues and clients?
Unlike bank accounts, love, reciprocity and knowledge do not grow smaller as you use them.
Sooner or later, in one way or another, we all will ask ourselves these questions. Moreover, we’ll look back on our life and wonder, What is my legacy? What have I done that is meaningful?
We’ve been taught to see life as a quest, a journey that ends with, hopefully, meaning, love and an IRA that will keep our golden years golden. There is, however, no end, no fi nal arrival; the quest never quite ends. There is no one job title or one dollar amount that can ever act as the ultimate finishing line, which is why the achievement of some goals can feel as disappointing as failure.
Living a connected life leads one to take a different view. Life is less a quest than a quilt. We find meaning, love and prosperity through the process of stitching together our bold attempts to help others find their own way in their lives. The relationships we weave become an exquisite and endless pattern.
Remember that love, reciprocity and knowledge are not like bank accounts that grow smaller as you use them. At no time in history has this law of abundance been more apparent than in this connected age where the world increasingly functions in accord with networking principles.
Wherever you are in life right now, and whatever you know, is the result of the ideas, experiences and people you have interacted with in your life, whether in person, through books and music, e-mail or culture. There is no score to keep when abundance leads to even more abundance. So make a decision that from this day forward you will start making the contacts and accumulating the knowledge, experiences and people to help you achieve your goals.
Excerpt from Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. Copyright © 2005 by Keith Ferrazzi. Published by Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc.