Have you ever had the experience of meeting one incredible person and that meeting leading to other incredible people or opportunities? I’ve certainly had many of these, but it took me a while to get here.
Until a year and half ago, the concept of spending time on optional meetings with people didn’t actually make sense to me. I was living in LA, running a UX agency and iterating on Wanelo on the side. I was fully aware of the fact that successful startups I was reading about in Techcrunch and other startup blogs seemed to have impressive people involved with them. These were advisors, mentors, investors and teams. Yet I didn’t have those types of people in my life.
My over-simplified view of the world at that time was that if I had a question or a task or a problem, then I would just go find a direct solution. I was incredibly independent. I would work on the problem, research things online, or read books. Talking to people in general as a way of creating value or solving problems seemed like a very indirect way of dealing with the issue at hand.
Luckily for me, I have since learned that I was 100% wrong.
Let’s examine what it means to be in touch with a person. Every single one of us has spent our entire lifetimes processing the world and accumulating knowledge. We read books and blogs, watch movies, travel, talk to other people, think about problems, build business, make mistakes, have successes and so on. In every one of these tasks an individual makes choices. I choose what to read and what I read leads me to find and read other things. I choose who to talk to and those people lead me to other people, things to read and so on. The accumulation of these choices represents the world I have created for myself.
Thus, every single person represents a particular set of heavily filtered knowledge, opinions, expertise and connections. For example, if you talk to me about personal growth and ask me for recommendations on books to read, I will recommend a very narrow and specific set of books. This set of books will represent my entire lifetime of personal growth and searching for answers. I’ve read many books, blogs, talked to people, gone through personal growth courses, thought about stuff endlessly and, as a result, I can produce a conveniently packaged and very small list of things for you to read.
In other words, I have become a shortcut. Surely, you could go through everything I’ve gone through to get to these books. But given the limited number of hours in a day, it’s quite impractical to do so. You’re much better off talking to people who have already done a lot of this work themselves and using them as a shortcut and a filter to get to relevant stuff quicker.
This is why our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds are so relevant to us. Individuals we follow become the only way to cut through the intense and growing quantity and complexity of data and content in the world. Each individual represents a world of context, and humans have powerful intuition to gauge that context. When a particular individual shares something, we intuitively know the context of that person’s world and thus we know what to make of the thing being shared.
In the last year and a half, I have learned first-hand that the power of human shortcuts is absolutely phenomenal. This is why it makes sense to make finding and connecting to incredible people the absolute top priority in life, pretty much regardless of your goals. Finding a single incredible individual essentially means that you plug into that person’s entire world and that leads to a host of consequences.
I moved to San Francisco in April of 2011. Since that move, I’ve been having repeated experiences of plugging into the worlds of incredible people. Since I used to have this very limited perspective on the importance of meeting and knowing people, I started out on faith. Essentially, my reasoning was, hey, I don’t really know why I need to meet with this person, but I’ll just do it anyway since that’s what other people seem to do. And so I met with people in spite of myself and initially those meetings were entirely unnecessary and optional in my opinion, but some of those people turned out to be amazing. And they introduced me to other amazing people and at some point the entire thing blew my mind a little.
A year later, I’m running a ridiculously exciting funded startup with an incredible team and an amazing network of supporters. I continue having regular optional meetings with awesome people who become shortcuts into other great things. Every so often I doubt this strategy (after all, these are optional), and almost every time I’m proven wrong. More than that, the resulting opportunities are often surprising and entirely unanticipated. The key, of course, is finding the right individuals to serve as your shortcuts to all things awesome.
In future blog posts I’ll write about how this applies to the social web and to what we’re building at Wanelo.