The relationship between have and be

“If I have more love/money/friendship/fame, will I be happier?”

Whenever we see “have” preceding “be” in such questions, we can be sure unhappiness is lurking around the corner.

Flipping the order, however, changes everything.

The question we’d ask now is – “What kind of person do I have to be to have more love/money/friendship/fame?”

By being trustworthy and caring, it is likely we’ll attract love and friendship into our lives.

By being skilled at something valuable and disciplined in our practice and execution of the skill, it is likely we’ll attract the financial security we seek.

And so on.

There is a chance we’ll win the lottery and have what we desire before being the person who deserves it.

Waiting to win the lottery, however, isn’t good strategy.

Better to flip the question and be the kind of person who deserves what we want to have.

On making friends and building community

I’ve become a fan of Jenny Anderson’s articles on Quartz of late. She covers topics like life, parenting, and happiness and her notes on all of these resonate. The piece I enjoyed today (here) was on making friends, building community, and the metric of success that both matters and is ignored. I hope you find time to read it. Here’s a powerful bit at the end –

I used to think that community was as simple as having friends who bring a lasagna when things fall apart and champagne when things go well. Who pick up your kids from school when you can’t. But I think community is also an insurance policy against life’s cruelty; a kind of immunity against loss and disappointment and rage. My community will be here for my family if I cannot be. And if I die, my kids will be surrounded people who know and love them, quirks and warts and oddities and all.

In future-proofing my life, I have made every day richer. A problem shared is a problem halved, my kids were taught at school. Communities do that too. I arrived in my version of the soulless suburbs, and it turns out they are not soulless at all.

Warren Buffett, a friend of Gates, says that his measure of success comes down to one question: “Do the people you care about love you back?”

“I think that is about as good a metric as you will find,” wrote Gates.

I’d concur. Keep connecting with people, and in time, you will have a community.

Wishing you nice, connection filled, weekend.

A long PS: A follow up on the LinkedIn Premium post – a couple of you wrote in asking if you could be “picked.” That made me cringe as I was hoping to avoid any such connotation. I wish I’d been more thoughtful about how I’d phrased what I wrote.  The intent was to help anyone who was searching for a job in a small way – job searches are hard. The good news is that I reached out to a few of my colleagues for help yesterday and many of them have generously offered their subscription gifts. So, we should hopefully have enough for all those of you going through an active search within the next few days.

And, related, I just started work on the team working on job seeking at LinkedIn. As you might have gathered from my many posts on the topic, this is a problem I’m grateful to be working on. We know there is plenty that needs to be better in our product and are working hard at it. All feedback on what is working and what is not working would be helpful and appreciated. Thank you. :)

The only sure-fire way to get fit

Spend time with people fitter than you.

Too often, we look for quick fix solutions like diets and intense bursts of fitness focus. The simplest way to solve this in the long run is to simply make sure you consistently spend time with people who care about fitness. It won’t be long before you mimic their fitness regimes and find yourself making more time to get fit.

We’re hugely influenced by the company we keep. So, if you want to get smarter/wiser/better, choose company that is smarter/wiser/better.

We are no more than the average of the five people we spend most of our time with.

You attract people by the virtue of who you are

One of the most interesting aspects of going back to school after reading many books on human behavior is that you feel you are in a human laboratory of sorts. For a start, you meet more people in 2 weeks than you’ve probably met in 4 years of professional life. And, as a bonus, you have a very high school-esque atmosphere as everyone is keen to understand who their friends might be.

Since friendship offers incredible insight into human behavior, I thought I’d share my notes on a few observations about friendship –

1. We are the average of the five people we spend most of our time with. Friendships matter. (glad we’ve gotten that out of the way)

2. Schools are one of the best sources of great friendships. While some work environments manage to create strong friendships, it isn’t uncommon to hear people describe their friends either from high school, university or graduate schools. I think friends are one of the education system’s biggest gifts to us.

3. Friendship in our early years is almost entirely a product of proximity. As we grow, it becomes entangled more by choice. And, the entrance of choice means we get to see our own magnetic fields in action.

4. We all have magnetic fields that either attract or repel people. These magnetic fields are almost entirely driven by a combination of who we are (comprising of our values and what drives us) and the strength of our personality. Depending on who you ask, we can either be bloody boring, absurdly cool, too serious, too uptight, too flaky, etc.

5. That brings us to the next important truth – everyone is not going to like you. No, you can never be universally popular. In fact, shooting for popularity is probably a problem in itself.

6. If your magnetic field isn’t getting you the sort of friends you’d like to be surrounded with, you either need to change your friends or change yourself.

7. “Cool” exists in every social group. There is always a certain sub-section that is cooler. This group is the envy of most nerds and geeks. However, in my experience, the cool kids are left behind almost without exception. That’s my way of saying – make sure you pay attention to the nerds and geeks. You might just end up working for them.

8. You can be intentional about friendships. But, you’ll have to learn to do so without trying too hard. All human relationships are two way and the other person has to respond too.

9. Trying too hard is a field-killer. It obscures who you are because you pay too much attention to fit in. Don’t fret – just keep an eye out for like-minded people and you’ll generally do just fine.

10. Some people manage to present different faces to different people. If you’re not skilled enough to play that game, don’t try it.

11. If you aren’t really clear about who you are and what you stand for, don’t worry. It comes through when you start doing work. The work you do is a by-product of who you are and how you approach life.

12. Finding excuses to let yourself and your work shine through are critical as a result. That’s why many friendships build when working on projects. Don’t underestimate the power of extra-curricular activities.

13. As with life, patience is critical. Great relationships often take a while to form. That’s okay. A great personality can help speed up the process but, unless it comes naturally, it is probably not worth the bother. It is character that is going to sustain a relationship. There are few more accurate signs of good character than long-lasting relationships. It is definitely an infinite game.

14. If possible, actively seek folks who have different backgrounds and points of you. This is only possible once you feel relatively secure about who you are and where you come from (hence, communities of expatriates typically cluster). If you feel you are ready for this, give this a shot. While it is guaranteed that people with similar background will have many shared experiences, you will be amazed by the sheer number of like-valued people you find when you venture outside.

15. And, one last thing, be yourself. If you don’t know what that means, work hard to understand who you really are by working to understand what your values are, what drives you, and how you approach life. It is only once you possess a sufficient amount of self awareness will you be happy to be by yourself. Often, it is when we’re perfectly content to go on a journey by ourselves that we find the best group of travel buddies.

Lamborghinis and television ads

A friend recently shared – Lamborghini does not advertise on television because people who buy Lamborghini’s don’t watch television.

The idea applies to everything we do. For example, do we understand where the folks who read our blogs, use our web services hang out?

Perhaps even more pertinently, where do those who we’d like to hang around with, be like and learn from (i.e. our friends) hang out? Our closest friendships form during high school, university and graduate school because of this reason – we are surrounded by a group of people with similar ideas and dreams for an extended period of time.

This sort of environment becomes harder and harder to replicate as we move through life but it makes for great question to ask every once a while – where does my tribe exist and how can I find them?

The best part about this question is that begs a deeper set of questions – who am I?, why am I here?, and what tribes do I want to be part of or create?