A few months ago I started a networking event, called OpenConnect. One interesting thing about those networking events is that, if you do your job correctly, you end up with a lot of people attending. Which is kinda the whole idea of a networking event, of course.
But yet another interesting thing about a popular networking event is that you get to attract a lot more people than you initially thought you will. That’s what happened with OpenConnect too, fortunately. I ended up attracting many people, from all walks of life and, to my surprise, some of them were former business partners. People with whom I either competed in some areas, or partnered in some common ventures. They were now in other businesses, physically changed and somehow different, but still some of my first business partners, from like 14 years ago, when I started my first online company.
I didn’t pay much attention to this situation, I savored the surprise, enjoyed exchanging some memories and then moved forward. But, after a few weeks, I realized there’ s something that doesn’t let me just move forward. There was something related to these encounters, something that needed to be processed and learned.
A few days ago, it hit me: it was because the connection. Back when we were business partners, my attitude was different: I was in competition. Now, it was only about connection (even the name of the event implies this: OpenConnect). 14 years ago, each and every one of those people was a potential competitor, a fight partner. Now, each and every one of the people who are attending OpenConnect is a potential connection, a talk partner.
The Rainforest Road
When you’re young, you cut through your environment with a machete. You know what a machete is: a large knife, able to cut through a lot of the blocking vegetation in front of you. You just use it, because you’re young, and powerful and, to some extent, that’s the only way you know to move forward.
You can’t see anything in front of you but you’re confident. And you have a machete. You also don’t give a shit about what other people may say about you, because you are determined to cut your road with a machete. It’s your way or the rainforest way. And you want very much to be your way only.
But as you grow old, you often come to revisit places we’ve been before. Places that you, or other youngsters have cut in their early days.
The terrain is civilized now, there’s no more rainforest left. Which may mean, for instance, that the relationships have been straighten up, or that you created a certain image of that terrain and there’s no more wilderness left anymore. In other words, the terrain is compartmentalized. It’s not a jungle anymore, it’s his terrain, his parcel, his river. You have your own parcels and other people have their own parcels. If you want to get to the next one, you have to go through a lot of other parcels. And guess what: since it’s civilized now, a machete won’t help you much. In order to cross over, you’ll have to interact with the owners. To connect.
The machete way is the competition way. The compartmentalized way is the connection way.
The Business Jungle
It’s much easier to understand that in business.
When you’re young and you just started your company, there’s basically only one thought in your frontal cortex: beat the competition. Slash slices of the competition with your machete. And you put a lot of energy, and knowledge and time into this activity. Basically, you start to define yourself in terms of how better are you compared with the competition. You become obsessed with cutting your own way through the jungle of competitors, customers, employees and whatever stands in your way.
But as you grow older and start to see a little bit clearer in front of you, you realize there is no competition. You’re all the same. You all live in the same forest and all of you just want to get by. And you start to notice his parcel, or his terrain and you start to think that you may need some of his crops. Cutting, removing, eliminating something is suddenly not as useful as it seemed to be. Turns out that you need other stuff more than you need to eliminate stuff that apparently stands in your way.
And, day by day. week by week, month by month, you realize something very interesting: if there’s more of others, you get better. The more parcels you can connect with, the better your life will be. As an individual there is only a tiny parcel that you can manage. As a team, or as partnerships, or as a coordinated movements towards a specific goal, you can manage and get so much more.
The Machete Consequences
Be careful who you want to cut when you’re younger. You may need his crops later on.