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Weekly Blog #59 - Social networks...

Based on a few lessons I've attended (online) in the past couple of days, I'd like to share a few thoughts about personal social networks.

First of all I'd like to state that I'm pretty convinced that older people have an advantage over younger people when it comes to social networks. Of course, you are born with a social network. But you didn't necessarily choose you network. You probably spend the most of your childhood in a social network that you can hardly influence - think about school, family, etc.. But you can start making friends and choose who you want to play with. However, this is not the type of social network I'm referring to. It's the network that gets you somewhere in your life that I want to talk about. The one that you build during your last years in school, university and your early working life.

If you get older you get into a position of knowing people in all kinds and on all levels of hierarchies. For example, if you are young and you just bought your first car, it might be a cheap One. So chances are high that it breaks down. If it does, you go to the mechanic's shop and talk to another young person, probably even a trainee with basically no power. They are not high up in their hierarchy and they do what they're told to. No extras, no special service, nothing. Still you want to be nice and maybe - if he did a good job - ask him to fix your car again in the future. Because you get older and have been a customer for a few years, your peer from back in the days will probably have been working for some years as well, gathered experience and climbed the hierarchy of the mechanic's shop. Now he's in a position to grant you favors, to bargain with you about some extras you'd like to have for your car, etc.. And you can ask for it because you are a long-term loyal customer. That's a valuable social network. The point here is: when you get older and develop a social network you can ask that network "can you do X" or "do you know X"? And they say yes or no. If they say no, they might know someone else who can. That's a good position to be in.

What's important about this is that you built your network not by going out and schmoozing with others or trying to impress others. That doesn't help you if you need anything from your social network. What you want to achieve is that you bring something to the table and they have something for you in return. And admiration of shallow friendly words won't get you you anywhere. Try to surround yourself with people that are competent in multiple different areas and dimensions. You should try to build and maintain these types of relationships. They are trading relationships and they evolve from reciprocity.

But here comes the more difficult part: this also includes friendships. Here's how you can tell if someone is your friend:

A) You can tell them bad news - and they'll listen! They won't tell you that you're stupid and why that bad thing happened to you and how something even worse happened to them once and derail the whole conversation... You can actually tell them bad news and they will listen.

B) You can tell them good news - and they'll help you celebrate! And that's a crucial thing to decide who you should have around you. In some cases you'll have someone around you and when something good happens to you, you are too afraid of telling what it was that happened to you because you are afraid that they'll take it away from you. These people then tend to give you a whack by telling you whatever better thing happened to them 3 years ago - or even the great thing that happened to someone else they knew 3 years ago... These people are not helpful to you or themselves.

It is acceptable and desirable to surround yourself with people who are facilitating your development. You might have people around you that you know well and they might not do that well or they don't fit into that category. What are you going to do with them? Listen to them, talk to them and try to move together to a better future in achieving an agreement on how you facilitate each other's development. You can help them first, then they can help you. Reciprocity all over again. If they don't pay attention and they keep doing the same things over and over again that won't help you and certainly won't help them, none of you are going anywhere and it can become quite the painful relationship. The proper thing to say then would be: "Alright, you just have your misery. I'll go off and live my life. If you decide to change, get back to me and we'll figure out a way forward." If you won't do that and put up with it, you are enabling. You are providing tacit consent and even tacit approval and you don't want to do that.

Therefore, it might not only be your right but also your responsibility to surround yourself with people who want the best for the best part of you!

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