I’ve been turning this idea over in my mind lately. Prosperity doesn’t really mean having a lot of money (though prosperous people often do). It doesn’t even mean the ability to earn money (because some prosperous people don’t even clock in). What prosperity really means is having the ability to gather resources. And, as most prosperous people know, the most valuable resource in the world is people.
The fact that there are only “six degrees of separation” only matters if you know what to do with those connections. There are two people who I turn to for advice on connecting with people, Dale Carnegie and my mom. Although both are deceased, their wisdom is timeless. Carnegie wrote one of the best-selling books of the 21st century, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Thousands of people (likely attracted by the title) picked up his book to learn how to get people to like them, but quickly discovered they were learning how to be a better person – how to be a better influence, how to make their lives “about” others, and how to get out of their self-centered isolation and build a “net” of human connectedness.
Although woven from single strands, a net is always stronger than its individual parts. A net’s inherent value is in its wholeness. That all of the knots are strong and healthy ensures its highest functioning- to gather resources. Now you might not be a fan of fish, so I’m going to redirect this analogy a bit. The point is that people not only need each other, we need each other to be healthy and happy. We each become more prosperous when we help each other to be our best.
So, how well does your “net” work?
The truth is that you have to tend your net. You have to pay attention and perform daily maintenance on your connections. I’m not talking about attending networking events, those stuffy, shallow, biz-card swapping meet and greets. No, those are for people who don’t have the time or incentive for real prosperity. Building and maintaining connections takes a real commitment, but the payoff is huge.
Think about the people who do it best. Do you have someone in your life who always remembers other people’s birthdays and anniversaries? Who organizes get-togethers? Who reminds you when important life events like weddings are coming up? Who makes the call, shows up with the gift, sends a card, etc.?
For me that was my mom. She kept people’s names and their birthdays in her calendar and never missed an opportunity to let you know you were special. She passed away one week after my birthday and I played her voice message where she sang “Happy Birthday” to me on my cell phone for months afterwards (until my phone wouldn’t keep the message anymore). That is who she was, even at the end, she never forgot the people who mattered to her. These kind of people “re-member,” or bring people back together. They keep people close. In my experience they are usually women, moms who know the importance of gathering human resources, but I know men can do it too.
We can all be a little more like moms, even if we aren’t one. Keep your people close. Make it a habit to re-member them by recognizing important dates like birthdays and anniversaries. Take a little gift the next time you are invited to a party. Make a REAL phone call when there’s a call for concern to let someone feel your compassion (not a text or FB post). Caring for others is one way we express our gratitude for them being in our lives.
The other type of people who are good at building nets are those who “re-mind” people about the truth of who they are. In other words they help people with right thinking by sharing positive thoughts and making people feel special. I highly recommend reading Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. There, I said it twice so you won’t forget. He will tell you how to be “about” others – he will tell you why that matters. He will tell you how to be the type of person that people will never forget.
Carnegie’s top six pieces of advice (until you locate a copy):
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
As you take on these new ways of being, my advice is to start small and be gentle with people. Our society has become fragmented – a weak, frayed, hole-filled net. So don’t come on too strong or the net you live in might break. People just tend not to trust overzealous positivity; it has to feel genuine and caring to be of any value. You have to strengthen and repair individual knots, one at a time and then keep them intact. Tending your “net” is a life’s work, but if you work on your “net” rather than relying on a network, you will experience true prosperity because a human resource will take care of you like you were one of their own.