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Why “Who You Know” Beats “What You Know”

Why “Who You Know” Beats “What You Know”

Think for a second about how most first-world education is set up: it’s often about what you know, meaning the quantity of concepts. This is often why students ask “Is this on the test?” They want to be sure about what they know: is it the right mix of what they are supposed to know?

Even outside of school, students are often encouraged to read more and pick up new skills. It becomes increasingly about quantity. It can lead to a culture of overscheduled kids and anxious parents.[1]

Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss have addressed this in a podcast episode: there are achievement cultures and fulfillment cultures.[2] Achievement cultures are focused on quantity of tasks or goals achieved; the number matters more than almost anything else. Fulfillment cultures can be more about personal contentment, growth, happiness, etc. — and less about hitting a specific number.

America and many first-world countries are largely achievement cultures, so we focus a good deal on what we know. What if that’s the wrong approach?

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Why “who you know” matters more

What about knowing more people? And what about knowing the right people?

    Dealing with other human beings is a huge part of what most of us do, whether you work in a call center, sell real estate, or create marketing solutions for small businesses.

    How we get along with others is often the greatest indicator of success. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, has even warned other leaders of hiring “the brilliant jerk” — someone who does well on paper with goals and numbers, but has limited likability and alienates teammates.[3]

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    The bottom line is that people around you affect you: they can make you happier, healthier, and more successful — or the opposite. Based on the research from Nicholas Christakis at Yale, most of this influence is passive and gradual. You may not even notice it as it’s happening.[4] But over time, you become a reflection of those you spend time with. Understanding who is in your immediate network, and whether they’re a good addition or toxic, is important.

      At a deeper professional level, one of the more successful connectors and networkers in Silicon Valley — a huge business hub right now — is Adam Rifkin, and he organizes 106 Mile Meetups once a month.[5] These have become premier technical events for engineers and coders, and often people get new jobs directly from these events.

      It’s more about who you know — and making sure those are the right people — than what you know.

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      How to get to know the right people

      There are a million articles online about better networking and first impressions, so we won’t go down those routes. You’ve probably heard a lot of that advice about eye contact and only discussing yourself 20% of the time (most people flip this and discuss themselves 80% of the time).

      Instead, consider some of these approaches:

      • Thank the people around you. This shows appreciation for their efforts, and you also remind yourself how blessed you are and feel better in the process. Hearing “thanks” from others genuinely strengthens most relationships.
      • Give more than you get. In fact, trying to “take” (get numbers and job offers, etc.) in a networking context is much more of the failure path because no one likes a taker who never gives. Be the person who gives of him/herself at events and offers to help others or find resources. Most will remember and when it’s time for the opposite to happen, you have connections.
      • Ask for help, share thoughts. In short, be social. Connect. Discuss. Exchange ideas. Human beings are social animals. That’s one of our great advantages. Be that when you network and build connections.
      • Connect around your interest. One of the more successful networkers at Davos, Rich Stromback, has claimed that “99% of networking is a waste of time” because many people care too much about first impressions.[6] Care about trying to genuinely connect around your interests instead.
      • Realize this won’t be easy. Relationship-building takes time to do effectively. Jeff Goins has described this well: you need to be comfortable approaching the right people, become comfortable with rejection (very hard), understand nothing happens overnight despite what popular culture might show us, and be ready to approach some people with your fears because it will make you appear genuine and potentially draw you into them.

      Start to connect

      Imagine this fantasy situation: you know everything in the world. Every single fact. Every single piece of knowledge. All of it. If you were this person but didn’t know any other people, or didn’t know how to talk to people or connect with them, how far would you get?

      Not very far.

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      Now imagine you know 1/4 of what that person does. There is much you lack. You don’t know so many things but you know people and have relationships. Think that person will go far?

      Yes.

      It’s not what you know. It’s who. Cultivate connection.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Brian Lee

      Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

      How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 7 Best Project Management Apps to Boost Productivity 100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes

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      1 What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It 2 How to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success 3 Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus 4 How to Answer the Interview Question “What Motivates You?” 5 Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

      What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

      Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

      Can I Be Creative?

      The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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      How Creativity Works

      Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

      What Really Is Creativity?

      Creativity Needs an Intention

      Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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      Creativity Is a Skill

      At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

      Start Connecting the Dots

      Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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