Amplify Relationships (337)

“The central economic imperative of the network economy is to amplify relationships.” That’s what Kevin Kelly wrote in New Rules For The New Economy.

Self-awareness is hard. VERY hard.

Schools don’t help. I know better than to do what I did, but I did it anyway. Because sometimes I’m a ninnie.

My 12-year-old grandson is in 7th grade. That means he’s now in junior high. It’s a big transition from elementary school. In many ways. He’s got 7 classes.

Yesterday I was asking him about his grades. To be fair, I rarely do this. Mostly I ask him about what he’s enjoying (and why). Or I ask what he’s done well. I’m usually more focused on encouraging him to lean into those things he’s really good at. Part of my problem is the same problem other adults have with the kids in their family. A built-in favorable bias where we may think our kids are pretty good at everything.

He told me he had A’s in 4 of the 7 classes, but by the time the report cards hit he expects to have A’s in the remaining 3 classes. “But you don’t have any C’s do you?” I asked. Hello, judgment! 😉

That’s what’s wrong with the state of education in America. Cookie cutter, single standard grade-based performance does not help our kids figure out what they may be best at. Instead, kids are able to quickly tell you what they’re not very good at. We’ve got it backwards. Our kids should be able to quickly tell us where they’re strongest.

This is important for many reasons. Confidence building is chief among them.

A buddy calls me up. He’s telling me about a networking event he attended – we both normal shy away from these affairs. He’s been studying some techniques to improve behavior by elevating your thoughts. So he tries a quick exercise as he walks into the room. Determined to find one suitable client candidate he surveys the room. One person catches his eye. He’s not even sure why, but he approaches the fellow and begins a conversation. This isn’t some full-blown sales mode ordeal. They’re just talking and learning more about each other. As my buddy answers the question, “What do you do?” the other fellow leans in. He’s very interested and asks if they can meet sometime so he can learn more. Well, now you know why my buddy called to tell me this story.

We’re both interested in neuroscience, psychology and why people do what they do. Both of us have studied people for decades. And we’re both pretty self-aware. Like you, we’re very aware of our weaknesses.

“It’s confidence,” I say. “You employed a technique you believe in. So as you enter that room you believed – you REALLY believed – you’d find a potential client.”

My friend’s value system – the way he sees the world and his place in it – coupled with his strong belief in this technique designed to help him – it gave him the best opportunity to enter that room and make a connection. That’s how it works for all of us. But most of us mistake going it alone. Trying to figure these things out for ourselves. The knowledge we have of ourselves is too frequently conceit and pride. Typically it’s because we didn’t incorporate others to help us see things more clearly. We neglect to amplify relationships that can help us soar with our strengths.

What’s more important than your ability to discover and leverage your individual strengths?

When you amplify relationships you dramatically improve that ability. Because you surround yourself with some people willing and able to help you elevate those abilities.

This isn’t a comparison game. It’s an insight game. People who surround you – people with whom you have a close and safe relationship – are able to support you, serve you and help you see things you wouldn’t otherwise see. In yourself and in the world around you.

On the flip side, there are people with whom you are unsafe. People who you don’t trust. Maybe you never did. Those relationships must also be amplified but in reverse. You may have folks in your life who are toxic. Amplify those relationships so you can more clearly see how damaging they are to your life. This is sometimes as difficult, or more so than amplifying the valuable relationships because quite often the people who do the most damage to us are the ones we’re most attracted to. They can be the people who approve of every poor choice we make. They’re always leading us to behave foolishly. But maybe that’s fun. They don’t challenge us to be our best. Instead, they help us lower our life to a base-level that isn’t good for us or anybody around us. Case in point, drug addicts help each other by getting high together. No drug addict got the help they needed from their drug addict friends. People run together enjoying the same foolishness. How can you see that for what it is? You have to decide for yourself what’s important. You have to make up your own mind that discovering and leverage your individual strengths are more important – and then you have to have the resolve to be more intentional about the people you allow into your life. People willing and able to help you do that.

If figuring out your strengths is hard (and it is), then figuring out who can help you discover them and how you can best leverage those strengths is ridiculously hard. Doable, but hard.

Here’s the thing. It’s not going to happen for you accidentally. It could, but it’s unlikely. Like we talked about Wednesday about success – you want to create the best conditions possible to bring it about. This is an area where your chances of success are very high if you put in the work. It starts with something that seems counter-intuitive. Stop thinking about yourself. Stop being self-centered. Stop putting yourself ahead of everybody else. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and maybe most of all, stop blaming others.

Own it. And realize that all this attention you’re giving yourself is taking pieces of you away. It’s not contributing to help you build a better you. It’s not making you better at being able to properly amplify relationships.

Help others. Be the most beneficial resource possible for others. That’s how you’ll find your best self. It sounds hokey, but it’s true. It’s totally rational, too. People are attracted to the people they trust. We trust the people who we know have our best interests at heart. Who are those people? They tend to be the people with whom we feel the safest. Be safe for others.

Assess the people who surround you. Be honest with yourself. Are they making you live a higher moral life? A life with greater impact? Or are they making your current life more fun? Are they supporting your belief that you deserve whatever you feel you deserve because you’re a victim in life?

The questions aren’t always enjoyable. Wrestling with them isn’t always fun. We’re pursuing the most profitable lives possible though. We’re not merely looking to feel better about ourselves at the moment, only to be riddled with guilt later on. We’re chasing sustainable, long-term growth and improvement. We desperately need people who can help us. People who can see where we’re blind. People with a long-term vision where our short-term vision fails us. People who love us enough to call us out and help us avoid hiding behind our excuses. Those are the relationships that need amplification.

Who you surround yourself matters!

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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