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The joy of knowing people who know people

We all know the old adage, it’s not what you know but who you know… and who knew this was a special skill?

There’s a mate of mine who claims his special skill in life is “knowing interesting people”. Whenever he says it – usually after introducing me – he makes me think of that scene in The Big Lebowski where Walter tells The Dude he could get him a severed toe by 3pm. He’s presenting himself as someone with connections, who can put you in touch with whoever has the capacity to solve your current problem… or problems you don’t even know you have yet.

While I don’t claim to be anywhere near that level, “knowing interesting people” is a skill I also try to cultivate, partially by design and partially because I like other humans.

I imagine it would be very difficult to rack up those connections if you were a shy introverted type or misanthropic curmudgeon, but if you’re the kind of person who spends a Sunday afternoon convincing strangers they need to stay for another round because you want them to meet Kate, it can often happen by accident.

(That example got specific, didn’t it? But they really did need to meet Kate. She’s great.)

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve managed to hook up two people with potential employers and connect another with an Aussie celeb for a birthday surprise she’s organising. In all those cases, it wasn’t a matter of directly connecting these earthlings – it was more like the equivalent of glancing at my watch and casually letting them know I could get them a severed toe.

My initial thought in all three cases was that I couldn’t help. Sometimes it takes a minute or 30 to subconsciously work through the contact list and see the links.

“Knowing interesting people” probably isn’t the right way to describe this in terms of business utility. There are plenty of “interesting” people who are not going to be of any benefit to you and instead will sap your energy, waste your time or drive you mad. A better way of thinking about this special skill is “knowing useful people”.

Well, that’s a better way of thinking about it if you’re a sociopath who only values others for what they’re specifically bringing to the table for your benefit.

Like I said, it’s much easier to establish a far-flung, diverse and positive network if you actually enjoy the company of other humans. Especially humans who think differently to you, move in different circles and possess different skills.

Like Kate, for example. You really do need to meet Kate. She’s great.

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