What Matters In Life: Connection and Giving.

This post was inspired by an interaction I had with my friend (who I’ve never met in person) Erika Bitzer, who blogged about it on planpitchprint in a post called “Fate and Twitter”

For those who are connected with me online (or offline), I do try my best to help those around me as much as possible.  Whether it’s offering words of encouragement, sharing a link, or connecting people who might benefit from a relationship with each other (when Katie Morse posted a question on Twitter asking for people to summarize themselves in a single word, I chose ‘connector’).

I believe that underneath every effective business plan and underneath every interaction must be an intent to connect and give.  This is the killer app. Those looking for maximum ROI with minimum risk are missing the point entirely, both in business and in life.  Giving as little as possible while expecting support in return is a recipe for a lonely existence.

Often, we lose sight of why we’re actually here. We get buried underneath our day-to-day strategizing, planning, brainstorming, trying to stave off unexpected results.  We become afraid of surprises, so we try to plan for every contingency. We try to tie every interaction on a 1:1 basis back to a business goal (or, “what’s in it for me?”).  Slowly, the promise dies in a hailstorm of planning, structure and alienating language, and we end up with a social network presence nobody cares to visit, and we eat dinner alone in the dark.

Give us this day...It’s so important to take the time to flip it around, to think about feeding your communities, to connect and give whenever you can.  It’s important for your own mental health, the well-being of your company, the popularity of your twitter account, the survival of the species on this planet.

I know your CMO doesn’t care about connecting with customers on a one-to-one basis as much as shouting from the rooftops how great the latest version of gadget xyz is.

I know your product manager wants to do a retweet contest or ‘crowdsource the new tv ad!’. That’s not giving. That’s not making something possible that wasn’t possible before.

I know some people may read this and say ‘well yes, but you need to convert this into business speak and reframe it around making money or saving money in order for it to resonate’.

I call bullcrap.

Giving is transformative. Whether its a philanthropic donation, a link to something someone was looking for, a hug and a smile, or an amplified voice, this is the stuff that changes minds, changes lives, changes policies. And yes, this is also the stuff that makes me spend time on your fan page, buy your stuff, tell my friends.

So, for the sake of you, and for the sake of the world, think about what you can give and what you can make possible for just a moment. Get out from underneath all the bullshit and just connect on human level.  Just once.  And then just once again. And just once, again.


The Toxic myth of ‘us vs. them’.

Last week, I and a few others in my group gave a presentation to the NYC office of Waggener Edstrom about digital storytelling, social media and findability. One of the points I made sure to focus on was the gradual decline in ‘us vs. them’ thinking. The same isolating fear-based separation that leads to war, depression, loneliness, and a lot of the suffering that goes on in the world is alive and well in business.

Me Vs You Venn Diagram

Historically, it was very easy for business folks to think of their customers as ‘them’. “how do we get them to buy our product,” people would say, and the answer would often be tactical guesswork, and not lead to particularly effective results.  By beginning the strategy by specifically excluding ourselves and everyone we know, we find that we don’t really leave ourselves with anything to base our strategy on.

In the time when you could safely assume that a significant portion of the country was tuned in to a single piece of entertainment (The Tonight Show, etc), putting a message, any message in front of people would get some return. The talk-to-everyone-to-reach-a-few days are gone, and good riddance.  They’ve been replaced by endless permutations of clusters of people passionate about an endless combination of things, each making their passions known and eagerly anticipating the opportunity to connect, share, get and give value.

The true power, the true awakening, the most effective conversations, marketing, communications, PR, interactions come when we realize and recognize the simple fact that there is no ‘them’. It’s never been more apparent in the history of the world that across geographic, cultural, language, economic and all other barriers, what we all seek under all of our pretense, suffering and assumptions is connection, support and compassion.

Those that realize that we’re all in this together and keep that fact in mind when looking at ways to connect with those around them, to truly listen and engage with people, to provide value, and to empower people will exist happily for a long time.

In spiritual life this connection to the world is essential to feeling at peace.  Different religions suggest different methods of achieving this, from giving to charity, to loving thy neighbor as thyself, to what the Dalai Lama calls Wise Selfishness.  If you’ve ever been depressed, you may remember a distinct feeling of ‘not feeling like part of the world’, isolation, distance from people who care about you.  You may also find your focus turned exclusively inward, unable to include others in your day-to-day life in conversations about anything other than how awful you feel. This is a horribly lonely place to be, and does not result in any kind of engagement with you being at all inviting. It may be valuable to compare this state of mind with business practices of a company you work at or are interested in.

In the same way that feeling like part of the world leads to our personal successes, it is such with business as well.  Even in the distant past, some of the most successful campaigns on behalf of business happened when the company was able to focus outward.  Avon and Tupperware built their empires with this mindset.  Being inclusive and thinking of all individuals as people who could potentially rally around a common cause connected to making their lives better is the only way to succeed.

In other words, there is no ‘them’.  There is only ‘us’. That’s the secret.

[Science backs me up on this, by the way: There’s a whole school of thought on what’s called “ingroup favoritism“]

Header Credit: Strangling Statues by David Sim