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Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and Whos’Got Your Back bestsellers, is a friend and mentor.  These are some of the principles I learned from Keith:

1. You can’t get there alone:

Funny how we forget this! I know at times I’ve forgotten how many people have helped me in my success. When I pause to think I realize how little I sometimes did. Some of my biggest successes, I was almost passive in comparison. It was literally handed to me by a friend, colleague or family. My part was living up to my commitments and earning intimacy in my relationships with them.

2.  Business Relationship are personal:

Keith is adamant that there is no “solely business” relationship. He distinguishes between an intimate relationship and a relationship that is not intimate.  Both are personal.  Taking the time to learn about a person’s problems, needs, interests, you become a part of their life and you earn their trust. We’re assuming you didn’t learn this by stalking them!

3.  Share passions and vulnerabilities:

Be transparent and share your passions and interests. Keith insists on being vulnerable with your clients and contacts. The principle of reciprocity is triggered and they feel more willing to share theirs.  Despite some fears of exposing weakness, Keith insists that it eliminates prejudgments. If you’re authentic they can still choose not to like you, but they will trust you.  We trust what is predictable, and an open person is predictable – even if rude.

My stepfather was brutally honest and many people did not like to be around him because he could insult them as easily as he could inspire them. Like him or not, they all trusted him and his friends were friends for life.

4.  Be Generous and Give – Don’t keep score.

“Intimacy comes from giving without keeping score.  Everyone knows when scores are being tallied and most don’t like it.” Keith also warns about the generosity of not allowing others to help you.

I see this playing itself out on the internet in a scale that is unprecedented: chronic spamming and broadcasting from a red ocean of marketers, all working on an ultra short sales cycle.  It’s a numbers game for them! Many people that started out with generosity give up too soon. They feel taken advantage of, and soon revert back to highly transactional behavior.  If you go back to number 1, my statement of passively receiving success was a direct result of not keeping score.

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Monday, I received a call from a young man that has asked me to mentor him.  We’ll call him Carlos.  I met Carlos when I was helping my friend and mentor, Keith Ferrazzi, with the launch for his latest book, Who’s Got your Back? Keith’s first best seller was Never Eat Alone.  Carlos, about 28 years old, drove about 90 minutes with 10 people to Keith’s book launch.  We were all impressed with Carlos’ leadership and passion.

Carlos was in a hurry when he called me. He wanted to know if he could see me that same evening.  He did not really say why, but as I had accepted the responsibility to mentor him, I agreed to meet him.  I had a subtle sensation I was about to pitched, but I still wanted to give Carlos an opportunity to pitch. Last time we spoke he was working on an IT start-up in the Latin and Hispanic market.

When  Carlos arrived, with his friend Gus, I saw him all pumped up and excited, which is not unusual for Carlos as he has more energy than 99% of us.  His optimism and enthusiasm is truly engaging. It’s also why he has so many followers.  The conversation went nowhere and I sensed, as my wife says, I was being marinated like a juicy roast! J  I stayed relaxed knowing that how I responded to Carlos in front of his friend would define our friendship. I was now certain I was about to be pitched and it was looking like an MLM pitch.

Unable to wait for the pitch I firmly requested the purpose of the meeting – with a smile! J  It was an MLM!!  I knew that to reject Carlos would be more destructive and even more so in front of his friend, Gus.  I let him pitch me.

He was very excited because he had been brought in before the actual launch of the MLM and the directors were all major players in the MLM world.  He wanted to introduce me to one of the Directors.  Still very sensitive to the social situation, I knew I would have to sit through an MLM call.

I did try to stop the call from taking place, but Carlos was determined I meet this Director.  About 20 minutes later, thankfully, the call was over. Gus had observed my discomfort.  I told him I did not want to disappoint them, but that I was not interested in MLM and that they could have saved themselves time if they asked before driving to see me. But they argued, we just introduced you to the Director – a man who made millions…. You’re talking to a boss!

I sighed and said: “Carlos, I am excited about your new opportunity.  I think if you focus it can work beautifully for you and Gus. But I’m not interested in MLM.”

More persistence and this unique pitch from Carlos: “But Jorge you have a vast network of people who are very successful. That’s why we introduced you to the Director of this MLM.”

Jorge: “Thank you!  I am truly honored you think so highly of me.”

I paused and with conviction told them: “I don’t pitch my friends.”

Carlos and Gus were perplexed and totally confused, which they expressed almost in unison: “Then why do you have this network?  Why do you spend so much time building these relationships?”

I told him of an old friend from adolescence who is a successful lawyer and even appears on TV.  One day while I was at NBC, he stopped by and in the conversation he said this: “When you’re in private practice you don’t have friends, you have clients”.

Whilst I could not judge him, I felt the sadness in his voice – a subtle and almost imperceptible tone of regret and loneliness.  He billed everyone he invested anytime in and he was successful. This is not the path I took.

More perplexed looks followed by Carlos asking: “But how does this work for you?”

Because, I began, I am not desperate, nor am I in a short sales cycle.  I am building trust, credibility and friendship. Once you have trust, credibility and friendship, all business evolves naturally and abundantly – even with friends.

Trust is a rare, therefore valuable. It is not the same as reputation, which you can’t always control.  I carefully invest in relationships and now I have a priceless deposit of trust and credibility.

I know that many of us as lawyers and professionals have to close sales and some in a shorter cycle than others. I can only recommend that you seriously consider making friends and not burning through your contacts. That you invest in a relationship with generosity before you ask for anything.

We’re all inundated with fast pitches and spam from people we don’t know.  That’s what Keith Ferrazzi calls highly transactional: when a person makes no attempt to care, listen or engage you, but simply broadcasts or instantly pitches a service or product. I buy mostly from people I like and trust, even when it might be more expensive. Because I like them and I trust them!

They care.

Sometimes, there are those of us that prefer to take without giving in return. Most large networks are defined by a majority of people taking without giving or passively lurking, while teams and communities are defined by mutual generosity and active collaboration. Nonetheless, I reconsider before judging or rejecting the more passive or self-centered, and feeling that I was taken advantage of.  It has happened to me on many occasions, but it is the nature of finding treasure.

I’ll close with an excerpt from Emerson’s Essay on Compensation:

“Men suffer all their life long, under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to be and not to be at the same time. There is a third silent party to all our bargains. The nature and soul of things takes on itself the guaranty of the fulfillment of every contract, so that honest service cannot come to loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer.”

My version: If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more….while you find a graceful exit!

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The industrial era injunction to work longer hours and literally drive oneself to the edge of physical and emotional exhaustion is almost dead in the opulent West.  Many lament this and it’s often the subject of many articles on our economy and youth.  We admire the Chinese for their work ethic but we can’t seem to find the energy anymore.  We’re lazy – they say.  We’re going to be left behind!

Maybe…. and maybe not.

All these are by necessity linear arguments that exclude the broad scope of evolution as a result of technological development. Maybe we are lazy. But then, why bother with technology?  Isn’t technology meant to free us from routine and repetitively boring tasks?

Let’s assume that technology continues at this pace, a pace not broken despite world wars, depressions, recessions and Communism.  From the limited perspective of what we know today, we can expect that if you’re a lawyer you will have access to a vast, almost infinite, ocean of information.  Maybe even AI: intelligent agents that can tell you the law, fashion arguments, draft briefs, etc. But then so does your “opponent” have this same access.  What then?  A sort of mutually assured stalemate situation – MASS.

What now?  Back to humans negotiating, I guess.

All roads lead to human interaction – even more so than ever before.  That’s what we’re seeing already today with the mass interaction using social media like Facebook and Linkedin.  As technology grows, human interaction increases.  Hence, the importance of building relationships, authenticity, trust, and credibility becomes its own currency.  But unlike capital currency (money), controlled by a few, relationship currency is a universal currency which everyone has access to.

Like it so far?

Ok, that was a really long winded explanation to conclude that we’re all in the “business” of human relationships – plain and simple.  And “relationship currency” is vastly more rewarding to a joyful lifestyle, to your capital currency base and to the time to enjoy them.

I know I skipped some steps, but it’s a blog not a treatise.  Can you already see that we’re “lazy” because we can be?  That our relationships are and will be more important that the technology you use and the hours you work?  That relationships are and will be more important than your access to capital in fiat currency. Relationship currency can’t be inflated by central banks, loaned by banks with interest; it can’t be counterfeited or stolen because it is based upon human experience and interaction.  You can fake it – for a while – but you will be soon exposed. There is no bankruptcy court that can discharge your relationship debts from deceit, manipulation and self serving lies.

After 9/11, I once saw a friend buy rural land and stockpile 2 years worth of food.  He was going to escape to his bunker in case of mass chaos, nuclear attacks and eat dehydrated food until it was all over.   The Lone Wolf syndrome – going it alone.  A practical idea up to the late 1800s in North America.  Today, someone will tweet that you have food and the mob will siege your house first! GET IT??  You’ll have to go underwater in a one man submarine or into space to escape mobs. Most of humanity will simply have to  build relationships so that a mob never materializes because we’re all too busy trading, cooperating, and collaborating to steal each other’s food!!

Today, it’s a reality that with social media and the lack of privacy, you are being valued by the currency of your generosity, accountability and trust.  These rules have not really changed in centuries, only the scale has changed – exponentially!

Now here comes the shameless promotion: that’s why we created OBA.  We’re a global mob trading in the currency of trust.  Investing in the market of each others success.

In the spirit of earning your trust, what is your most important objective and how can we help you realize it?

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