The Cold Reality of Social Capital
The ice cold reality of social capital. So this is great. I'm speaking to a lot of folks here at Creative Live. I love the opportunity to address an audience of people that really wanna learn this stuff. And I didn't see this coming a few years back. When I was a kid, I was painfully shy. Painfully quiet. I did not ever want to go to school or even meet other people cause I just felt like if I was sitting in the front, I felt like everybody was looking at me and normal for kids but not normal as you grow older. When you're a kid, you think it's always gonna be this way. So I started to skip school and it wasn't the cool kind of skipping school where you're on a parade float or you're at a fancy restaurant like Ferris Bueller driving in Cam's dad's corvette or whatever. It's the kind of skipping school where your parents come home at 5: and you're playing video games in your underwear, again. So it wasn't really a system that was working for me. The education system, the public school s...
ystem but really I just didn't fit in. That system was not working for me. I later went to the University of Michigan so I sort of slogged my way through school. And when I graduated from undergrad, all my friends had these really bright futures too. They were going to the tech giants, like America Online at the time so instead of going west, they were going - where is it, Virginia or something like that? So they were going to sunny Virginia for their tech future. Other friends of mine were going to Wall Street because they had finance jobs. I was one of those guys who needed more time to figure it out. Code word for "oh crap, college is over. What do I do now?" And I just needed a little bit of extra time. I tried to get a job at Best Buy, okay? Should be a shoe-in. Have a degree from University of Michigan. Theoretically, qualified to do this job. And I remember that I could build computers. I'd figured out how to put these machines together. I could install things and remove viruses. I said "yeah, I can't wait to do this". I got up bright and early one day, 2pm. Still college. (laughter) Walked into Best Buy and this guy was like "yeah you do know a lot about tech, you should definitely work here." And I thought "great, when do I start building and repairing computers?" And he's like "whoa cowboy, slow your roll. You've gotta sell CDs in the music department for two years before you can move up to customer service in computer repair. So I saw my version of my bright future go down the toilet in front of a life size cutout of Britney Spears. So I just thought "this system's not working for me either. I did all the things I was supposed to do and now I'm still stuck. I can't even sell freakin' CDs. This is a living nightmare. This is not what I was told by the older generation. Go to college and get a job. That's how it works." Now, everybody knows this right? But back then, on the cusp of that "hey you don't get jobs now when you walk out of here." "What? Oh, we should probably figure this out." We were the generation that just didn't have that. So I was completely lost. That system was not gonna work for me either. Facing the bleak reality that a lot of people have, I did what a lot of guys do when they are backed into a corner with absolutely no options in life. And I became a lawyer. (laughter) And law school was interesting for me, to say the least because I did not fit in - surprise! (laughter) I finally made it through law school. I was finally good. I found a niche. I have to get a job after this. I got decent grades. I'm gonna get hired, and I did. I got hired by this guy named Dave at what we call a white-shoe firm. It was a very fancy, old law firm and all the guys, they were from New York. It was cool and everybody was sort of homeboy and it was a fun work environment and it was all wood paneling, you know that kind of place. Dave was cool. He literally was cool. He was from Brooklyn and he had a tan. What? So he obviously knew something that other people did not know. I remember my interview with him was so neat cause he was throwing a football around in the office. He had this chain that was like a ball of chain and he would toss it to me and we'd throw the football. I was like "this is so relaxing". Of course the other interviewers were like "Tell me what your four year plan is" with their fountain quill pen and stuff. And Dave was awesome, and I thought "this is great" cause the person who hires you, they're gonna be your mentor. That's what they even said. They said that would be the case so I'm thinking "this is gonna be sweet. Oyster shooters on the roof with Matthew McConaughey, like Wolf of Wall Street". Not what happened. What happened was, Dave was never in the office. Ever. There was an all-hands meeting once and I saw him in the elevator and the managing partner, like the CEO of the law firm, goes "Uh oh, is there a meeting or something?" Cause Dave was never in the office. It was actually a joke that he was there. And I remember he came in once, the other time I saw him in four months. He came in limping and I said "oh my gosh, what's wrong?" And he goes "yeah, I was doing Jiu Jitsu yesterday" And I was like "It's Wednesday. When were you doing Jiu Jitsu? Oh yeah, in the middle of the afternoon? I just don't understand this." So, HR had a meeting for all the new associates and said "how's your mentorship program going?" And I was like "oh there's a mentorship program? Oh yeah, that's right. I don't really know. Everybody else is going to see Blue Man Group and all this stuff and I'm like 'can I get a cup of coffee with my mentor?'" So he literally takes me downstairs in the same building. This is such a gyp but he goes "look", he's banging away on his Blackberry, "ask me anything you want", banging away on his Blackberry, playing Brick Breaker or answering email probably. And I go "okay, so" and fully not caring about the job at this point, right? I'm like "how come you're never in the office but you're still a partner? How do you survive? Do you just bill hours from home? What's happening here? How come you are able to survive here?" He's younger than the other partners, what the hell. He puts down his Blackberry and at this point, I'm like "this is how you get fired at Starbucks. This is gonna be fun. I'm gonna get pistol whipped or something. And his answer changed the way that I look at work forever. He basically said "Look. I go out. I get deals. I hang out with these investment bankers. Jiu Jitsu, golf, racketball, squash, whatever. My time is better spent outside the office. If I'm in the office, I can bill $800-1000 an hour working on documents, being on calls. But if I'm out there and after 50, 100 hours of leisure time or working the leads, as he kind of referred to it, he can bring in a million dollar law deal every three months. Every quarter. So he's bringing in four million dollars worth of business. I'm not gonna do the math right now, especially not in a live performance here, but I will tell you that you'd have to work a lot of $800 hours to bring in four million dollars a year. That's a lot of sitting in an office. And that's what the other partners were doing. And this just blew my mind, because this was the secret third path, right? It was you can try to outwork everybody and stay in the office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and there were people sleeping under their desk. This is Wall Street 2005, 2006. That was actually happening. Or you can be the most talented person around and you, after 20 years of working in a law firm, you're the partner that can envision these crazy new financial products or solutions for investment bankers so they will only hire you and you're the man, right? Or you can bring in new deals, which is something that a lot of us who were book smart growing up and book smart in law school were not really focused on. We were not focused on these soft skills. So, Dave wasn't the most skilled lawyer. He was probably not even the traditionally smartest lawyer, but he was the best in terms of soft skills and people skills so he could basically write his own ticket and later on, when his relationships were still bringing in business but we had the economic downturn of 2008. I'm sure you heard about that, or experienced it yourself. He walked out of that firm, walked into another firm as a partner and all of the other partners that I had seen, that I had worked with, that I had worked under that were there at 2:30am on a Sunday night - they were punished by the recession. They got retired, which means that they're just done. Their hard work seven days a week for decades, sometimes multiple decades, their reward was "Okay you're finished now and you'll be lucky if the creditors don't come after you personally for all of the things that this firm owes because you own an equity share in the firm." And Dave was like "oh this is too much work. I'm just gonna go over here now." And he brought his book of business with him. And that taught me, as you might imagine, a pretty amazing lesson that I was lucky to learn as early as I did. So I decided from that point forward, even before Dave walked out of that firm, I decided this is my secret third path. Nobody else is even paying attention to this. They have their heads down right now. I'm the one who has my head down too. I'm definitely not gonna slack off, but there's gonna be people who only do that. They only do the work and that seems like a really good idea but in that moment, I learned it's almost a sucker's play. But it's not really, right? Cause they're telling you "oh just bill hours and you'll get there." They're not lying to you, on purpose. They just don't know. They don't know about this. Dave didn't even know how he developed all his relationships. His thoughts were "oh yeah, you know, I just go out and meet a lot of people and I'm a member of certain clubs. It's really not that hard." And it just mystified me. Because he was kind of doing it on purpose but he kind of wasn't and I thought "why isn't his job to teach all of us how to do this? Because if he can bring in this amount of business, what if there's five of us now after ten years that can bring in this amount of business." It seemed like a no-brainer to me, but apparently everyone else had just decided "It's not a learnable, teachable skill. There's only one Dave in the firm so, shrug. Guess we'll just have to pay Dave a bunch of money and hope he doesn't ever leave." Well that didn't work out, right? And the firm went under. That's when I learned in order to succeed inside the system finally, I had to work outside the system like Dave. That was just a mindblowing realization for me. That secret third path was something I had never thought of, never heard of, and I had never actually thought I would be involved in. Especially coming through law school. Now, it's a safe bet that there's plenty of people watching or even in this room, that like networking. They're like "oh it's fun, I just wanna do better at it" but 99% of us are going "I hate it". We already heard from the front row, most of us don't like it. Let's extrapolate that out to pretty much everybody else. And so, what we find is that, this is again another cliche, it's all about who you know. But when people say that, they throw stank on the end of it. It's never like "oh, it's all about who you know". It's always like "that guy who got promoted over me, guess it's all about who you know." You never really say that about yourself when you're doing something really awesome, right? You say it about somebody else who gets the job you wanted, the project you want or the opportunity that you want. And even inside companies like this, or like the Google tech giants, or even stodgy IBM style corporate hierarchies for whatever, the most brilliant idea can fail if you don't have the right people around you. And the way you get those people around you is to learn how to develop relationships. You can be in a startup with three people, social capital matters. You can be in a company with 500,000 people, Walmart or whatever. I'm pretty sure they don't have that many but who knows. You can be in a company with an unlimited number of people and who you know still matters. Probably matters even more. Those relationships and those connections matter even more. And of course, when I first started thinking about networking and relationship development, I was like "well, Dave was probably born into this. He's probably some sort of blue blood dude. But Brooklyn, I don't know, where did he go to school?" I started asking these kinds of questions, and what I found was that it wasn't that he went to a fancy private school with the little insignia on his blue blazer. He wasn't really born into it. Sure, he was from the area but when you're born in Brooklyn in the 70s, I don't think it's exactly a ticket to the top of the financial ladders of Manhattan and for the rest of us, if you can marry into it, highly recommended. Fine, fair enough. But for the rest of us, we have to learn this stuff if our parents didn't do this process for us. If we're gonna have kids and we want them to have those "it's all about who you know" advantages, we've gotta learn this process and we've gotta put this into place. So you're really kinda not off the hook no matter how you look at it. The other good news is that with intentional application of the systems that we're teaching you here, you're going to be able to get ahead of the people that were born into it. Cause they're coasting, right? They're like "oh my dad knows the CEO of CreativeLive so I can just teach a course here whenever I want." That's probably not how it works here, right Chris? But in theory, in other places, it might work like that, okay? But those guys are coasting. If you've got your foot on the gas, you're cultivating and creating the right kind of relationships, you're watering and tending that garden, you will eventually pass those people up. It's the tortoise and the hare, really is what it is. Now, networking is a set of habits. This is not some sort of like "okay I gotta turn it on right now". It never turns off in fact and once you see the matrix, there's no going back. Once you can see the connections between people and how it works, there's no going back to not paying attention to this kind of thing. At least it would be a tough call. And the skills do the work for you. The systems that you're gonna put in place that we're gonna talk about, there's body language skills and non-verbal communication skills, those are the things that are going to do the work. And introverts are not off the hook. Who's an introvert in here? Right, oh good. A lot of introverts are like "don't really wanna raise my hand now". Good, okay. You don't have a medical excuse anymore for not being social. Everybody's like "I'm an introvert, so can't do any of this - sorry! Medical reason, I got a note from my doctor." You're not off the hook. Now that we've seen some of the new science, introverts are actually even better at generating and maintaining relationships because they think before they talk, they think about other people's feelings, this is all news to me. They think about other people's feelings, they think about how interactions work and how other people might get a win out of the relationship. These are all very natural networking skill sets that introverts seem to naturally have. Whereas a lot of people who are naturally extroverted, they're just doing all the talking and sometimes we go, "This guy. Let me know when he's done yammering. Maybe I'll get a word in." And a lot of folks think, "Well Jordan, you run a talk show, you're up here talking right now. You're obviously an extrovert. Not true. As evidence by my origin story here. These skills that you're seeing right now are all learned. Earlier you asked me "are you nervous?" and the answer was "absolutely. I am super nervous." And I'm using that energy to go flow out to you instead of trying to hammer it down into a little box which is what causes people to freeze up and do other embarrassing things while they're up here. So, these are learnable, teachable skills. We teach 'em and learn 'em every week at AOC in our live programs. We're gonna teach you and learn you some today too. Strengthening existing relationships. Now this is a worksheet. Don't hit it just yet. I want you to realize that your network, the relationships that you have, not just for inside your career, not just for your social life. It can be a business development army, like it was for Dave. It can be a job search army, for people who are going "Where's my job? Where's my career?" I actually got the job at that law firm through networking, just purely by accident. The person who hired me, other than Dave, the person who did the preliminary interview, his assistant brought somebody that my old undergrad college roommate had lived with, to the event to help manage cause he went to that same law school. I wasn't getting any interviews. I was like the weird guy who didn't sign up for anything cause I wasn't thinking "oh I have to sign up for these interviews in order to get them?" So I was going in on people's lunch breaks and stuff and he goes "go say hi to Jeremy" and I'm like "Whatever. I guess. I'm not doing anything. I came here for no reason apparently." I go to say hi to Jeremy, he goes "Hey we just had a no-show for an interview slot. Do you want to interview right now?" And I'm like "I don't even know what firm this is." He's like "Don't worry. It's called Thacher, Proffitt & Wood. Here's what we do. Just say finance. Give me your resume. Cool, alright." And the guy's eating like a Subway sandwich for lunch, he's like "This is my lunch hour". I'm like "Cool, whatever. I'm not a super weird guy that you wouldn't want to work with." He's like "Good enough-you wanna fly to New York next week?" I was like "Yeah, cool." That's how I got the opportunity to get this job. It was through this random, random, random connection. And I wasn't thinking "Good thing Jeremy's here to give me this great hook-up." I was originally not even gonna go bother saying hi, but what I learned from my friend was 'go say hi' is code for 'you might wanna actually go do something with this cause you're sitting on the couch in the lobby while all of us are getting jobs, moron.' And that's what he meant by that, so we want to strengthen these relationships. The cold truth, the cold reality of social capital as the earlier slide said, is that you can willfully ignore this, you can ignore all of this. You can think "this is all fine and good. I'm not gonna do this stuff though Jordan, because I'm gonna work hard or I'm naturally talented." That's fine, but you're just being willfully ignorant of the secret game being played around you. You're not exempt from it, you're just burying your head in the sand. Other people are gonna be making these connections and they're going to get around you and then in five or 10 years when you're in the middle and you're not getting promoted and the guy you hired three years ago is now your boss, you're gonna be like "Oh shoot, that's what happened." So don't say we didn't warn you. You're just being willfully ignorant of the secret game being played around you. So, let's strengthen existing relationships. That worksheet, y'all got that in front of you. I will wait. So pick one person in your network who's a weaker tie. Now throw those names in there. These are people on the periphery of your network. You don't know them that well but you kind of would like to. And then, you're gonna figure out what you might be able to offer these people. Do you have an article you think they might find interesting that you didn't send because you didn't think about it or you didn't think you wanted to put yourself out there. Is there anybody you can introduce them to? You don't have to do that right now but put the names in there and the idea that you have for strengthening that connection. You don't have to get it right. I'm not gonna check this. This is so that you know that you've gotta dedicate some bandwidth to it. The other part of the worksheet. This is an interesting people fund. You can name it something more interesting than that. I really do..I'm not in love with that name. Use this as, it's just a little part of your paycheck, doesn't have to be a lot of money. Each month you can throw something in there, because what I've found is that a lot of folks, especially younger folks will be like "I can't afford to take this person out to lunch. I don't even have enough money to eat myself." If you save up for this kind of thing and you do this, you'll eventually end up with airline and event tickets. You can go and meet people that you think you need to connect with. It's a very common excuse that I hear, when I do events like this or when I MC an event, people go "I can't afford to go" and I'm thinking "I just saw you with a picture of your new crap on Facebook every other week and now you can't afford to do this important thing where you're gonna connect with others? Well, of course not. You didn't plan for it. You built in your own excuse." So, we wanna have that as a target. You can throw an event in here that you've always wanted to go to. A person that you've always wanted to go and meet, or network with. You can throw that in there. Or you can have it be more general. But don't let yourself off the hook too easily with the general "I guess I'll take someone out to lunch in three years, maybe." This is meant to be used. That's the rule of the interesting people fund. You have to use it for that. You can't just take it out and go "Well, I didn't use it this month. Guess I'm gonna buy Xbox." That's not how it works. It's designated for that. It's designed to be used for that. Alright, and if you don't finish now, you can come back later. In fact, I encourage you to go through the workbook again. Review your answers of course, and finish anything that you don't finish. Is all this clear so far? Are people getting this? It's not going overhead? Okay great. Perfect.