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Who You Know vs What You Know

December 8, 2010

Once in a while I come across a person, whether it is in social or professional circles, and I wonder – how did this person get where they are?

I don’t necessarily mean this in a derogatory way.  I am often sincerely curious about how this person found themselves in such a position – good or bad.

Do you find yourself wondering this about people occasionally?

I think it’s human nature to be curious about this sort of thing because it’s also human nature that people are interested in people.  The success of Facebook can be attributed to this fact (yes, I learnt that from The Social Network movie).

People always want to know about the ‘journey’.  The most famous people are those that had the most interesting journeys.  They aren’t always actors or musicians – they can also be just some average Joe who went through some horrific times but then rose above them and inspired others.  That’s enough to achieve celebrity status these days.

But today I’m more interested in the everyday people in your everyday lives.  I know everyone at some stage has wondered how on earth one of the managers at work got there, or who let some politician into their position of power.

And this brings me to my point.  What gets you further these days – is it what you know or is it who you know?

I believe that while it’s true knowing the right people can be very beneficial in life, I also believe that if one finds themselves in a position that they have not earned then it will not be as rewarding as it should be.  Worse still, that would mean that people around them may well be wondering about their journey.  How would that make you feel?

Having said that, I think this is another thing in life that needs balance.  I don’t know many (important) people, especially here in London where I now live, and I’m happy with where I am having worked extremely hard to get here.  Recently, however, it has begun to dawn on me that it is very easy to ‘plateau’ where I am.  Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about flexing some networking muscles.  So… what do you do?  Let’s be friends.

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