In the world of social media, a network can mean a lot of things. Unfortunately, your network is not equivalent to the sum of all the friends, follower and connections across your social networks. That would be a fantasy.
If we have to over-simplify, your network comprises of people who will care enough to take some positive action for the things that matter most to you AND to some degree you would do the same to them. I qualified it with “some degree” because everything is not always proportional. That is a topic for another article someday
Networks come in various flavors. Some of them are:
* superficial ones on social networks,
* egalitarian clubs where entry is guarded but once you are in – everyone is equal
* regional based on where you came from
* educational – based on where you went to school
* masterminds – like minded people coming together
* diversified but with similar interests – e.g.: Vistage
There are many more but let us assume that you have invested in building a decent network so far. Now, if you are like most people, you are either not able to get the benefit of your network or you are trying but nothing much is happening through the network.
Let us get to the bottom of this.
Nature of your Network
Whether you like it or not, your network comprises of four broad kinds of people, progressively becoming smaller in numbers as you go higher up.
This will be the largest number of people. It is sad but true. They take from you and… and nothing – it stops there. If you are upset about them, you will be paying twice – once because freeriders introduce COST into your life and twice because you keep thinking about them rather than focusing your energy elsewhere. I am not saying that you need to totally ignore them. If you are operating like a doormat, you are the one to be blamed – there is no excuse for being taken advantage of. You can always learn how to walk away from not-so-good people in your life.
To sum it up, keep room for freeriders in your network but remove them from your headspace as that is more precious than anything else.
2. Not Ready:
These people are better than freeriders but not so much. They acknowledge the help that they have received and probably one fine day they want to reciprocate but that day is not TODAY. Today, they are busy with their own set of problems and issues or they are busy chasing opportunities and that is taking up more time than they have. Fundamentally, if they don’t forget your help by then, a day will come when they have taken care of all their needs and they can look to take care of the needs of others. Sometimes there are people who genuinely are not able to reciprocate because of their personal situations. Whatever be the case, these are people that you cannot count on TODAY. They are “not ready” to give back for all practical purposes.
They are willing and ready to help BUT with one caveat – you have to ASK them to help you. They are fully charged and ready to go but they are not activated. In fact, they might even offer you help if they see you struggling with something but it has to be something obvious – something they can see and touch. Some people may also think that you don’t need a lot of help so why “intrude” in your life. They think you know that they can always be counted on and you WILL ask them if you ever needed your help. These are people who are one phone (or maybe two) phone call(s) away and you just have to reach out to that phone and dial for them IF you want them for something.
These people have got your back. They are there for you whether you want them or not. You and what you care about is in their mindspace all the time – they look out for you even when you are not looking out for yourself. They are thoughtful and caring for almost everything you care about. Some of the people here are the ones that you miss in your past. Your life is better off in many ways because these people exist in your network.
Trap Alert: Note that because these people are so proactive, it is easy for you to take them for granted or worse, take advantage of them. That would be a big mistake – both in the short-term and in the long-term. The best way to avoid this is to practice stoicism (another article one day) but the next best way is to just be more aware of all the blessings in your life. Evangelists in your network pyramid are and always will be a blessing.
The Key Observation
Your leverage from your network is directly proportional to the number of people at the top of your pyramid AND your finesse of making thoughtful requests to those folks in the second section of your network pyramid.
You can conveniently ignore the bottom two sections of your network pyramid as nothing good will come out of it. The more you shift your focus away from these sections, the more you will have peace in your life.
The Real Question:
The real question is about you and not about your network. Read this question carefully and reflect on it:
For how many people in your network are YOU on the top level of their network pyramid?
The higher the number, the better the stats for your own network pyramid. This is where the magic is. If you want to get your network to get working, you better be one of those people who make the network of others get working for them. It starts with YOU always – if you are in the top section of someone’s network pyramid, you need to have an uncommon caring for what they care about. If you learn to do have this level of caring without sacrificing your own interests – you have found the winning formula (Side Note: That is one of the things I teach in The Art of Leverage)
So, before you start looking for reasons why you are not able to make your network work, start looking for ways to make the networks for others “work” for them. Do this well and watch the magic unfold.