Just got back from a reunion of our extended family. I do mean extended! It was extraordinary to dive into the gene pool forawhile and explore my roots and my wings. Energized by my younger cousins who represent the Yonseis–4th generation Japanese-Americans a rainbow coalition of beautiful multi-racial and multi-ethnic backgrounds. This weekend I met a national surfing champion, a violinist who played at Carnegie Hall, an actress–and these were among my cousins under 19! Amazing who you are related to and don't know.
We all have cousins. From real cousins to people you are somehow related to (e.g. people married to your cousins, all the way to strangers you refer to as "cousins". In fact we are all cousins in one way or another. Read that Prince William and Kate are 12th cousins (once removed) and Brad Pitt and President Obama are 9th cousins. The further we go back our family lines converge and we are all related. But I digress.
When we think of our networks, we usually think about the inner circle of our close friends, relatives and confidantes. Mark Granovetter referred to these as our Strong Ties. In general, we take care of our strong ties. The challenge with strong ties is they usually are not that diverse. We tend to hang around and seek the time and attention of people like us, religiously, politically, and financially. Therefore a network composed just of your strong ties is limiting. You need people in your network that will transport you out of the box of your limitations to introduce you to new networks. You need a diverse network of opinions, viewpoints and connections. Granvetter called these your Weak Ties.
Granovetter defined ties: a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.
He concluded that some of the the most important ties are the ones which "bridge" you to new connections, new networks, and new opportunities. His research showed that "no strong tie is a bridge." That weak ties are much better bridges.
One of my mantras is: It is amazing who you know who you don't know.
Great and beneficial networking focuses on your existing network before new connections. The key is reconnecting and deepening your relationship with people you know, especially weak ties–like your cousins–to expand your network.
You want your network to grow, but organically and warmly. Your existing network is a catalogue of warm calls, much different than the icy world of strangers that you don't know.
Second mantra: Being introduced is the most powerful form of networking.
The most potent network development comes from your existing contact list. Meeting new people through others.
Get over the "embarrassment" of the time lapse between contacts. Stop letting your benevolent disregard for them stop you from reaching out and re-kindling a good conversation. This is why some gravitate to the casino of meeting new people, rather than than apologizing to an old friend and starting anew. Can you hear the crazy that screams out of this convoluted logic?
Yeah, but we are all guilty of this. It took a reunion for me to reconnect with my cousins.
Focus on making your weak ties stronger and then seek the diversity of other people's networks.
It is one thing to say you are open to new things and new opportunities. That you believe in serendipity. Everyone does. But it is a giant leap to actively cultivate weak ties, like your cousins, to truly encounter the serendipitous.
Sometimes you meet people that appear in your life. I know you are lucky but not that lucky—you are not the magnetic center of the universe. You must make your magnets, your luck, and the effort to make new connections.
Call or e-mail a cousin today. Listen to them. Tell your story. Help each other. The world will become smaller, warmer and bit more interesting. It has for me.
Thanks for reading. Your cousin John ;)