Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life begins.
– Ben Stein
The people you know, and who know you in a favorable way, will do more to determine your success, happiness, and level of achievement in life than any other single factor. No one achieves anything of consequence by himself or herself.
In life, relationships are everything. My friend Charlie Jones says, ”You will be in five years what you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.”
Dr. David McClelland, author of The Achieving Society (Van Nostrand, 1961), concluded after 25 years of research at Harvard that your choice of a ”reference group” would have more to do with your success than anything else. McClelland interviewed graduates of the university, as well as those who had attended his intensive seminars on achievement in American life. He tracked these people for many years. Many of them took what they had learned and did wonderful things with it. They built profitable businesses and successful careers.
However, many of the graduates failed to turn the information and ideas they had learned into later success.Why not? When he went back and surveyed them, he found that invariably they had returned to the same group of people they had been associating with before they had taken the advanced courses on achievement. As a result, they went back to the same old ways, the same old habits, the same old customs and manners of living. Because they were immersed in their old reference groups, nothing changed for them.
- YOUR REFERENCE GROUP
Your reference group is defined as the people you consider yourself to be similar to. For example, if you belong to a particular church, the members of that church are part of your reference group.You consider yourself to be like them. If you belong to a political party, a bowling league, or a particular profession, people in those groups and organizations are parts of your reference group. You identify strongly with them.
Over time, through a process of absorption, you will adopt their attitudes, mannerisms, ways of speaking, levels of aspiration, and even their style of dress. Your reference group will exert an inordinate influence on the kind of person you become.You will adjust your goals, behaviors, and thoughts to be consistent with what you feel they will approve of.You see this with teenagers all the time.
- MAKE NEW CHOICES
All change in your outer world begins with a change in your inner world. Major changes in your inner world start happening when you change the people with whom you associate and identify.When you select a new reference group, or find yourself in a situation with different people, you unconsciously begin to change, almost in spite of yourself.
This change process works quite quickly. In my speaking and travels, I have worked with countless men and women all over the country and throughout the world who have taken this advice to heart. They have deliberately changed their reference groups. They have begun associating with different people in different organizations. Very soon, they began to think differently about themselves, and their outer worlds begin to change.
- AS A MAN THINKETH
The Law of Correspondence says that your outer world is a mirror of your inner world. It says in the Bible, ”As a man thinketh, so is he.”This means that as you see yourself and think about yourself in your conscious mind, your perception of outer world changes and conforms to fit a picture consistent with it. This is the central message of this book.
The most influential factors in your thinking and feeling will almost always be the other people in your life. Successful people are those who form the habit of associating with other positive, successoriented people. Unsuccessful people, by default, end up associating with people who are not going anywhere with their lives. Both sets of people become more and more like the people with whom they most identify.
- FORM A NEW REFERENCE GROUP
If you really want to change your thinking and your life, make a decision today to begin associating, in every area of your life, with other men and women whom you admire, respect, and look up to. Resolve to associate with people whom you enjoy and from whom you can learn.Work and socialize only with the kind of people that you want your children to be like when they grow up.When you set these kinds of standards for your interpersonal relationships, your whole life will begin to improve almost immediately.
- DEVELOP YOUR OWN NETWORK
Your network is composed of the number of people you know, both directly and indirectly. These are people over whom you can exert some influence and who can in turn exert some influence over you.
The most successful people in our society, at every level, are those who know the greatest number of other successful people. They organize their lives to meet these successful people by deliberate design, not by accident. And so can you.
Many men and women, over time, move from one city to another, or from one field or industry to another. They start off with few contacts, yet in no time at all, they become some of the bestknown and most respected people in their new field.Why does this happen? It is because they apply the principles of creative networking to their new lives.
They immediately begin to form new, positive reference groups. They put into action a plan to develop as many good, high-quality relationships as possible within the shortest period of time.
- BUILDING YOUR NETWORK
Here is a great exercise for you. Over the course of the next six months to a year, make a list in a notebook of the 100 most important people in your community. As you gather these names from the newspapers, from conversations, from news broadcasts, and from your work as you move around, begin to think of how you could get to meet and know these people. Remember, the more people you know and who know and think about you in a positive way, the more successful you will be in every area of your life.
Once you have your list of 100 people, you should add to it regularly. Begin to network systematically with these people. Once you have a name, think of how you could communicate with that person. The simplest way of all is to write a letter expressing your opinion on something that the individual is involved in, or simply expressing your congratulations on the person’s success for something recently achieved.
Be patient when you start to expand your circle of contacts. Don’t expect the person you wrote to call you back or to come in your door to meet with you.You are in the business of sowing seeds. Sometime down the road, you may see that the person has done something else and you can write another letter. Over time, these little efforts will begin to bear fruit.
- PATIENCE PAYS OFF
I write letters continually to people that I meet throughout the country. I always send a copy of a poem, sometimes a book, sometimes an audio program or something that I feel the other person would enjoy. I have done this over the years for hundreds and perhaps thousands of people. Now, wherever I go, people come up to me and remind me that I wrote to them and sent them something, often years ago.
A couple of years ago, I was in Washington, D.C., at a high-level conference, and a senior person from one of the largest organizations in the nation’s capital came up to me and reminded me that I had written to him and sent him something five years before. He still remembered. After this meeting, over time, I got to know him very well. He has now introduced me to a variety of other powerful people. These new relationships have turned out to be very enjoyable and productive for me. They all started with me sitting down and writing a friendly letter.
- ADVANCING YOUR CAREER
Fully 85 percent of the best jobs in the United States are filled through contacts, rather than through want ads or recruitment agencies. Someone has the need for a particular job to be filled and lets it be known within a network. The word goes out from person to person, and an individual who could never be found any other way often surfaces and is directed, as the result of personal connections, to a job for which the person is well suited.
Many people have found that by broadening their contacts whenever they got a chance, they have changed their work lives profoundly. When they did change careers, they just happened to know the right person who was in the right place to make the right introduction to get the right job that saved the individual years of hard work in reaching that same level of responsibility and income.
- BE A JOINER
The major focus of networking developed by most high-achieving men and women and self-made millionaires is their regular involvement with groups, clubs, and associations that contain members who can be of assistance to them in their particular fields.
In my own experience, moving from one city to another, I found that by joining certain clubs and organizations and getting involved, I was able to develop more friendships and make more progress in a couple of years than many people had made in 10 or 20 years.
Make a decision, right now, to join one or two clubs or associations. The first association you should join should be the one for your profession or occupation. If you are in real estate, join the real estate board. If you are an entrepreneur, join an entrepreneurial association. If you are in sales, join a club like Sales and Marketing Executives International.
When you join a professional association, don’t make the mistake of merely attending the meetings and going home. This is what 80 to 90 percent of the members do. They may get some benefit from their membership with the organization, but nowhere near as much benefit as you can get by becoming more involved.
Here is your strategy. When you join a club or organization, get the membership book and look at the various committees. Ask around and find out which of the committees is the most active and important to the organization.
Sometimes it is the membership committee. Sometimes it is the government relations committee. Sometimes it is the education committee or the fund-raising committee. But whatever it is, find out what committee seems to have the greatest impact on the health and growth of the organization, and then volunteer to serve on that committee. There will almost always be an opening for someone willing to help.
- DONATE YOUR TIME
When you attend meetings of that committee, develop the habit of raising your hand. Volunteer for assignments. Volunteer to write things.Volunteer to do work that needs to be done.
The rule is this: In every organization, fewer than 10 percent of the people do most of the work. On any committee, fewer than 20 percent of the people do more than 80 percent of the work on that committee.Your goal is to be among that top 10 to 20 percent.
The most important committees attract the best and most important people in the association. These are the kinds of people that you want as part of your reference group. These are the kinds of people that you want to form relationships with.These are the kinds of people whose names you want for your Rolodex, and who you want to be a part of your professional network.
- PERFORMING FOR YOUR PEERS
One of the great advantages of serving voluntarily on a committee for your association is that you get an opportunity to perform in front of your peers, but without ever attempting to impress them or to get them to give you anything or do anything for you.
Every time you accept a responsibility and fulfill it completely, they make a silent note of it. They may not say anything aside from an occasional thanks or congratulations, but they are making mental notes, which will serve you in good stead later on.
- LEARN TO SPEAK ON YOUR FEET
If you have any fears about public speaking, you should make a plan, right now, to get over them.Your ability to make a presentation to a small group or to stand up and give a talk or chair a meeting for a larger group can do more to bring you to the attention of people who can help you than almost any other thing you can do.
Fortunately, public speaking is a skill you can learn with practice. I have urged people over the years to take a Dale Carnegie course or to join Toastmasters International. They are both open to everyone and available everywhere.
When you sign up or join one of these fine organizations, leaders will train you thoroughly in how to speak on your feet. They will teach you how to design a talk – with a beginning, a middle, and an end. They will show you how to speak in a variety of different situations. And the better you get at speaking, by the Law of Attraction, the more you will attract people and opportunities into your life to speak to more and larger groups.
- LOOK FOR WAYS TO PUT IN
Here’s something very important that I learned. The great majority of people, being selfish, are always thinking of how they can personally and immediately gain from any interaction that they have with other people. But this is not for you. Instead, your job is to look for ways to put in.Your goal must be to look for ways to contribute.
This seems to be the strategy used by many of the top people.Over the years, I have worked with many wealthy men and women. I will never forget a billionaire turning to me at the end of a meeting and privately asking me, ”Is there anything that I can do for you?” Later, another man, worth more than $500 million, asked me the same question: ”Is there any way that I can help you?”
When I went to work for a man worth over $800 million, in our second or third meeting, he asked me if there was anything that he could do in his position to help me in my personal life. By that simple gesture, even though I could think of nothing, he earned my lifelong loyalty.
Over the years, I have observed that many of the most powerful men and women, at every level of society, got there by continually looking for ways to help other people.
- LIVING THE LAW
Here is one of the greatest discoveries of the ages: The more you give of yourself without expectation of return, the more that will come to you from the most unexpected sources.
Most people think that if they do something good or helpful for a person or group, their rewards should come back directly from that person or group. But this is not the way the universe works. When you do something nice for someone else, you activate the law of attraction. Because it is a law, you never have to worry about your reward. As long as you continue to sow goodness, the universe will take care of the reaping.Your good will usually come to you from a completely unexpected source, and at a completely unexpected time. All you have to do is be sure that you are continually putting in. The getting out will take care of itself.
- THE BEST PEOPLE
As a professional speaker, I work with groups and associations all over the country. Without fail, the best and most talented people in every association are the ones who attend almost every meeting. The top people are the ones who always take the time and make the sacrifice to be there. They are the ones who always sit on the committees and volunteer to help in any way possible.
And I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Each year, one member of the association will be elected to be the national president. As the president, he or she will have to spend as much as half of his or her time traveling around the country voluntarily, without pay, on association business.
You would think that this would really cut into the person’s ability to make a living. But it seems that exactly the opposite happens. All the association presidents I’ve spoken to found that they made more money, did better in their careers, and made more progress in their field in the year that they took off to work for the association than in any other year of their work lives.
The more you put in, without expectation of reward, the more you get back from the most unexpected sources. And you are in complete control of what you put in. The universe will take care of the rest.
- KEEP A RECORD
Harvey Mackay, in his audio program, How to Build a Network of Power Relationships, says that the most important word not in the dictionary (at that time) is the word ”Rolodex.” He claims that, if your Rolodex is big enough, you are never more than two phone calls away from anyone in the country. Harvey Mackay has a Rolodex with more than four thousand names that he has gathered over the years. He has found that at least one of those people in his Rolodex has direct access to virtually any other person in the country with whom he wants to communicate, including the president of the United States.
- YOUR MASTERMIND ALLIANCE
Napoleon Hill, after decades of studying the richest men in America, concluded that the formation of a mastermind network was an important step to great wealth. It was the creation or joining of a mastermind group that enabled countless men and women to go from poverty and obscurity to success and affluence.
The core of your personal network of contacts, even before you begin to go outside to join groups and organizations, should therefore be your mastermind network. This is a small group of four or five people with whom you meet and talk on a regular basis.
Getting together regularly, at least once per week or even more often, with other people who think like you do is the key to the success of a mastermind group. Don’t worry about being self-serving in these relationships. Include in your mastermind only people you
- TAKE THE INITIATIVE
You begin the formation of a mastermind group by approaching one or two people you like and admire, and who seem to have the same positive attitude you do. They may be in your field or in another field. They may be younger or older than you, of the same gender or not. It doesn’t really matter as long as you have good chemistry.
The most important qualifications are that they have positive mental attitudes and are generally optimistic about themselves and their lives. They should have goals of their own that they are working on each day. They should be open-minded and curious. They should believe in personal development, and already read books, listen to audio programs, and attend courses and seminars.
- LOOSE OR STRUCTURED
When you get together with members of your mastermind group, you can have an agenda, or no agenda.Your meetings can be structured or unstructured.You can talk about general subjects or specific topics.You may talk about your own business or about theirs. It doesn’t matter. The very activity of spending time around other positive people energizes you, makes you more creative, and makes you feel more enthusiastic toward whatever you are doing.
An important element of your mastermind group is the amount of laughter that you experience together. This is the key measure of the quality of any of your relationships. People who laugh a lot together like each other more.They are usually more helpful and supportive of each other. The people you enjoy the most in life will always be the people with whom you laugh and joke the most.
- TWO PEOPLE TOGETHER
The most important mastermind group that you ever form is with your spouse or partner. A husband and wife together, or a couple, can be the most powerful mastermind of all. When two people are completely attuned to each other, and completely supportive of each other’s hopes and dreams, they form a powerful combination that enables each of them to accomplish far more than either could achieve alone.
People who are in an excellent relationship with a person they describe as their best friend are some of the happiest, most successful, and most fulfilled people in our society. Two people together can create wonderful things for both of them.
- MULTIPLE MASTERMINDS
You can have more than one mastermind network. Some people will have a mastermind network in their families. Others will have mastermind alliances with people who participate in the same hobbies or sports. You should definitely have a mastermind network that is specifically focused on your work or career. You can even have interlocking mastermind groups with people who are involved with you in more than one area.
The more you interact with other positive people, the more positive and productive you will be. Constantly talking with and sharing your ideas and experiences with others will give you a steady flow of ideas and insights from their experiences, and help you keep a healthy perspective on what you are doing.
- GUARD YOUR TIME
Your most valuable asset is your time, and relationships with people are enormously time-consuming. The number of high-quality relationships you can form and maintain is limited. There are simply not enough hours in the day or enough days in the month.You must be selective about the people with whom you associate. You must choose them carefully.
Baron de Rothschild, in his Maxims for Success, said, ”Make no useless acquaintances.”
This may sound a bit cold, but remember, your life is precious, and your life is made up of the minutes and hours of each day.You cannot afford to squander it on relationships with people whom you cannot help, and who cannot help you, to live and enjoy a better life. You must guard your time carefully. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, ”Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
- BE SELECTIVE IN YOUR CHOICES
Many highly successful people are often described as ”loners.” However, this does not mean ”a-loners.”They are not isolated, antisocial individuals. They are loners in that they are highly selective about who they spend time with. They do not drink coffee with whoever is sitting there, or go out for lunch with whoever happens to be walking out the door at the same time. They carefully build and maintain high-quality relationships, and they fastidiously avoid negative people who might hold them back.
If associating with positive people is a key to success, then the flip side is for you to get away and keep away from negative or ”toxic” people. Negative people are the primary source of most unhappiness. Problems with such people are most likely your major sources of stress and frustration. Negative people do more to diminish your joy in life than any other single factor.
It’s much easier to bounce back from financial loss or reverses in your career than it is to deal with negative people in your work or personal life. One major negative relationship can be enough to cut off all your chances of achieving your full potential in your career. Choose your relationships with care.
- SEEK OUT A MENTOR
Most successful people have mentors at different stages of their lives. A person whom you know and who knows you and helps you on a regular basis often determines your success in life. The right mentor at the right time can save you from countless mistakes and years of hard work.
At each stage of your life you can benefit from the advice and experience of someone who is further along the path than you.The men who have been there to give me guidance and advice as I have grown up and gone into business at various levels have affected my life dramatically. This type of relationship can have a major impact on your success as well.
Many people are a little bit fuzzy about exactly how mentoring relationships work. A mentor is like an uncle. He or she is an older friend, someone wiser and more experienced than you, who will give you guidance and advice from time to time. A mentor can help you avoid pitfalls that might sidetrack your career or hold you back.
- DEVELOP A STRATEGY
As it happens, the best potential mentors are successful people who are already very busy. Approaching one of them requires strategy and planning. Here is what you do.
When you decide that you would like a particular person to be your mentor in a particular area, you should contact that person with a specific question or need. Most successful people are open to helping other people who want to be successful as well, but they are busy. They don’t have a lot of time. You should not ask for more than 10 minutes.
The best way to approach a prospective mentor for the first time is with a short list of key questions for which you need answers to help you to make current decisions in your life and your career. Do not approach a mentor asking personal questions about his or her life and experiences. Busy people are not interested in sharing their innermost experiences and feelings with someone they have never met before.
- LOOK FOR COMPATIBILITY
In your first meeting, by asking a few specific questions, you are testing the waters.What you are looking for is a certain form of chemistry. You are looking for a person you like and respect and feel comfortable with, and who likes you and will be willing to help you in the future.
For this reason, you must go slowly at first. You must ask for only a few minutes, and then you must get on with your business. You must ask for specific advice about a specific situation. Be respectful, friendly, and businesslike.
Here is the key to developing the mentor/mentee relationship. When you are given advice, follow it. Don’t ask for specific advice and do nothing with it, and then attempt to come back for even more advice. This just demonstrates to the prospective mentor that you are wasting his or her time.
Instead, if the person suggests that you take a particular action, do it immediately. If the mentor suggests that you read a book, get it and read it. If he suggests that you listen to an audio program, get it and listen to it. If she suggests that you take a particular course, sign up for it and attend.
- BE RESPECTFUL OF THEIR TIME
Many people contact me and ask me to be a mentor to them, not only from throughout the United States and Canada but from foreign countries as well. Aside from the fact that I am extremely busy, I respectfully decline all invitations because of the particular approach that they usually take. They call up or write and want me to take complete charge of their lives. They want me to spend many hours of my time guiding, counseling, and directing them, and helping them in their jobs or careers.
The fact is that a prospective mentor is usually very busy and cannot even consider the possibility of spending large blocks of time with a complete stranger.
However, if you go slowly and you follow the advice given to you by a mentor, the individual may conclude that investing time in you is worthwhile. He or she will be willing to spend even more time with you to help you even further. Eventually, a very good relationship can develop.
You may have more than one mentor at the same time, and you may have sequential mentors.This means that as one mentor serves his or her purpose in guiding you, and you evolve and grow in your career, it will often be time to move on to another mentor who is even further along than your first mentor.
- RESIST RELATIONSHIP ENTROPY
The natural tendency in all relationships is toward entropy. Relationship entropy means that relationships run out of energy unless they are continually renewed. People stop doing the things that they had done earlier to establish the relationship in the first place. They work very hard to create the relationship, and then they take it for granted. They forget to communicate with the other person. They just assume that everything is going along fine and that no extra efforts are necessary to maintain the relationship. As it happens, men are more likely than women to let this happen.
But all relationships are a function of the time invested in them. You can only increase the value of a relationship by investing more time in it. This applies to a relationship with your spouse, relationships with your children, relationships with your staff members, and especially relationships with your friends and associates on a personal and professional level.
There is no alternative to personal time invested in building and maintaining a relationship.You must be alert to the danger of relationship entropy and be constantly working to counter it.
- CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE
It is quite common in business for someone to work very hard to win a customer for the first time and to build the initial relationship. However, once the relationship is established, the businessperson begins to take the customer for granted and go off to work on new relationships that are not yet well established. Then, six months later, the businessperson is astonished to find that the customer has gone to a competitor.
As a businessperson, your customer relationships are some of the most important assets that you develop and maintain over the course of your career. Once you have invested the time and energy required to develop a customer relationship, it is essential that you develop a plan for relationship maintenance. You make sure that you are doing whatever is necessary to keep that relationship alive and growing.
- THE LAW OF INDIRECT EFFORT
There are several principles that apply to building and maintaining relationships of all kinds. Perhaps the most important is the Law of Indirect Effort. This law says that you achieve things with people more indirectly than directly. Here are some examples of this principle.
If you want to have a friend, the direct way is by trying to get people to like you. This seldom works. The indirect way is to be a friend, to treat other people in a friendly way without expecting anything in return.
If you want to impress other people, the direct way is to tell them about your accomplishments and show them how clever you are. The indirect way, which is faster and more effective, is to be impressed by them. The more you show that you are impressed by someone, the more they will find you to be an impressive person.
The indirect way of getting people to like you is for you to like them first. The way to get people to admire and respect you is for you to admire and respect them in advance.
- THE LAW OF COMPENSATION
The Law of Compensation seems to apply directly to relationships. This law says that you get out what you put in, and the more you put in, the more you get out. The more things that you do for other people, the more things other people will want to do for you.When you offer to help or serve others, they will want to help or serve you. What goes around comes around.Whatever you sow you will eventually reap.
We have entered into the era of the ”go-giver” rather than just the go-getter. Each person has a deep desire to reciprocate in his or her relations with others.We want to even things up when anything nice has been done for us.We want to pay people back for any kindnesses or favors. We don’t want to feel that we are obligated to another. Nowhere is this principle more important than in relationships.
There are many people who think that the key to success is to get around other successful people and then to exploit this relationship. This strategy seldom works. It is much better for you to become the kind of person that other people want to be around.When you go to work on yourself and become a better person, better people will want to associate with you. This is the indirect way.
- MARRY RICH
Sometimes people say they want to marry a rich person. If you want to marry a rich person, by the law of indirect effort you had better get busy working on yourself to become the kind of man or woman that a rich person would want to marry. You should become very good at what you do, and develop the manners of an excellent person. Improvement of your life and prospects on the outside begins with your getting better on the inside.
There have been many studies of social climbers, people who have joined clubs and organizations in an attempt to associate with other successful people. Invariably they fail.Why? Because like attracts like. People are naturally attracted to people who are at the same level that they are. If you have not developed yourself to achieve a certain level of accomplishment in your field, you cannot take a shortcut and begin associating with people at that new higher level.They will not be interested in you, and you will only end up looking and feeling foolish.
- RELATIONSHIPS ARE EVERYTHING
Keep it foremost in your mind that relationships are everything. Your job is to become a relationship-creating individual.You should look for every way possible – in your personal reference groups, in your mastermind networks, in your clubs and associations, and with mentors – to form and maintain high-quality relationships.
Most successful men and women owe their success to the fact that, at an earlier time, they made the effort to establish and maintain a particular relationship that eventually paid off for them. Doors were opened and opportunities created that saved them years of hard work. And this can happen to you as well, if you use creative networking at every stage of your career.
When you know that your Rolodex contains hundreds of valuable names that you can call upon because you have already built a bridge with these people, it gives you a tremendous feeling of personal power and self-confidence.You begin to feel unstoppable.
- Make a list of 10 people whom it would be helpful for you to know.Write each of them a letter congratulating them on something they have just done.
- Select three people with whom you can form a business/career type of mastermind group. Invite them to meet with you weekly for breakfast or lunch.
- Join at least one association that holds regular meetings in your community and begin attending every one.Volunteer to serve on one of the committees, and get involved.
- Examine each of the people with whom you regularly associate, in business or socially. Are these the right people for you to have as members of your reference group?
- Develop a personal development plan to prepare yourself to become the kind of person that you would like to meet and spend time with.Take control of your own future.
- Take a Dale Carnegie course in public speaking, or join a chapter of Toastmasters International. Learn to speak on your feet.
- Resist relationship entropy; keep in regular touch with the most important people in your personal and business life. Call or visit someone today.