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Last Updated on January 30, 2018

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

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      Last Updated on September 17, 2018

      How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

      How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

      Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

      Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

      All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

      Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

      How bad really is multitasking?

      It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

      Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

      This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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      We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

      So what to do about it?

      Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

      Now, forget about how to multitask!

      Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

      1. Get enough rest

      When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

      This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

      When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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      2. Plan your day

      When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

      When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

      Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

      3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

      I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

      I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

      Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

      4. When at your desk, do work

      We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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      Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

      5. Learn to say no

      Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

      Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

      By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

      6. Turn off notifications on your computer

      For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

      Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

      7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

      Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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      You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

      The bottom line

      Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

      Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

      Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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