One of my best friends died last week. As toddlers, Robb and I played together in the nursery of our church. We were in the same kindergarten class. We were friends through high school, college and throughout our adult lives.
Over the past decade or so, even though our lives got busy with family and career, we would get together every three to four months for dinner. We would have some dinner and a few beers and share our lives with each other for just a couple of hours.
It was usually Robb who initiated those meetings. He’d send me an email or a text and suggest a time and a place. Sometimes, he would bring someone he thought I’d be interested in meeting. He introduced me to a young man that was going to the same college as me. And he once introduced me to someone that wanted to get into consulting.
The Last Dinner
The last time we met for one of those dinners, we talked about our families and careers a little, as usual. We tormented Joe, the waiter a little. We discussed some of our old friends. I talked to him about how I kept up with many of them with social media.
Robb had social media accounts, but he was almost never on them. He told me that he just didn’t get Facebook and Linked in. “What’s the point?” he asked. I tried to explain to him how much fun it was for me to learn what friends – old and new – were up to.
Then three days later, at the age of 51, he died of a heart attack in his sleep.
A Realization in the Eulogy
As I sat in the church, I listened to the minister eulogize my friend. Fortunately, he was also a close friend with Robb and he spoke of their relationship. He explained that Robb would call him every few months to meet for coffee. They would get together and just talk.
It amazed me how similar it was to my experience with Robb. Then, I heard other people speak. They too remarked how they’d meet with Robb occasionally. The minister talked about how Robb was a connector of people. And I realized that my relationship with Robb wasn’t unique at all. He did that with many other people. He regularly maintained his relationships and built new ones by connecting people in his network.
The Lesson Learned
Many of us connect with friends, coworkers and business acquaintances, thinking we’re networking. But most of us are just playing a numbers game. Few of us spend the time to get to know the people in our network. And we probably rarely connect people with others out of the blue, just because they may have something in common.
When we do make contact with those connections, it’s usually when we need something. “Hi Bill, I’m looking for a job. Do you know anyone who is hiring?” Or maybe, “I’m looking to sell to this company and was wondering if you could introduce me to this guy.” I admit that I’ve done that before.
So moving forward, I pledge to take a page out of Robb’s book. I’ll try to develop deeper relationships rather than increase the number. I will focus on quality instead of quantity.
I don’t know if I’ll ever leave a legacy as rich as the one my friend Robb left behind. But when I leave this world, if there are people who remember me as a connector of people, I know that I will honor his legacy.
That’s enough for me.
What have you done to develop your relationships this week?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com