Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Success is who you know. Maybe.

Published: 10 Mar 2012

I think we’ve all heard commentary about people being in positions because of who they know, or worse, who they’re sleeping with.

To some degree, I think this is all very, very true. It is important.

It is who you know.

I’m not a very social person. I don’t go to social gatherings, even though I should. I don’t really like to go out. I try hard to enjoy myself when I’m out. But even after I’ve had a good time, I find myself not really eager to go out again.

This doesn’t do well for me and my goals, because I really believe that a big part of achieving my goals is to enlist the support and help of those around me. Steve Jobs wouldn’t have made it anywhere if he didn’t have the people around him helping him out. Same with Bill Gates, but also the same for the VP of any company. It’s not just the celebrities; it’s everybody.

We are only as capable as the people we rely on. That’s tough, especially if you don’t rely on many people.

Effort is required.

I need to figure this out I think. There are some people who are very valuable to work with, the people everybody wants to be involved with. Obviously being involved with them is desirable, but there is a lot of competition.

It’s also important to be able to recognize the people who really will work with you. I think a lot of people will make an introduction or two, even talk about some work but nothing comes out of it. It takes study to figure out how that will ultimately plan out. My golden rule is expect to be treated the same as someone treats others.

Simply knowing the person isn’t enough, I have to work to cultivate a good relationship. I also must be careful to watch how they treat others and expect to be treated, at some point, in the same fashion.

Someone who is very generous may not be generous towards me now, but I expect in the future that things may change. Conversely, if they’re manipulative and screw someone over, I must be defensive.

Also, I expect them to watch me as well. If my contributions slip or if I become a drain, I would want them to cut me off. I would certainly cut someone off who was merely a leach.

Knowing someone won’t keep you elevated.

Because just knowing them isn’t enough I can never coast. In fact, I think I must work harder. I firmly believe that the only way to improve in anything is to compete against those who are better than you. Whether it is chess or life, the thing is the same.

When I meet someone who has some trait or is in a position I admire, I visualize why. What do I think they would do in a situation. Why would they do that? What type of experience do they have that helps them decide. It’s a lot of thinking but it pays off.

In the end, it could be that through years of study and being surrounded by those who I admire and inspire me, I can inspire others. That’s obviously my goal. When I am turning 60, I hope to be able to inspire a group of young entrepreneurs and innovators, helping to fuel the unstoppable engines of their progress.