Originally posted on Linkedin, with additional comments from discussions with Founders Only.
When you’re a young, broke student, beers are like gold. In college dorms, they’re an entirely separate currency. I’ll never forget the tallies that were diligently kept as we all passed beers around based on who was flush with “textbook money” or whose parents had most recently visited and left behind a case or two (Love you mom!). The difference between then and now (I hope) is that as adults, we don’t have a general ledger tracking who owes who a Budweiser, two rum and cokes, or three bites of a footlong sub.
“Nice, Steve DOES owe me a beer!”
When I graduated and joined the working world, I made fast friends with a man who seemed to have no issue stepping in to buy that first round for the fellas (shocker, right?). I knew where he worked, and could reasonably assume he wasn’t made of money, so one day I inquired about his apparently frivolous beverage budget.
I was met with an interesting theory… He figured that about half the people he covered would repay him with a drink. 40% would conveniently forget him (or the group) on the next order, but that the remaining 10% would pay him back tenfold one day, via drinks or otherwise.
This piqued my interest, because it was clear that this was not some long-con he was playing to accumulate a wealth of whiskey sours. He was not keeping track of who fell into which categories, or of his total outlay; He was simply doing what he could to ensure the people around him were having a good time. Oddly enough, we’re great friends to this day…
As we mature, we tend to form more friendships outside of the bar than in, but this generous approach is quite transferable. I don’t mean that I keep a sharing flask on me at all times, but I always try to provide value wherever possible, and have no expectation of a return. This can mean making an introduction for a friend looking for a new job, referring new business to a former employer, or helping a peer test the beta version of their new app.
Chatting with Rajah at Founder’s Only who is constantly making introductions: Rajah reminisced that in 2011 when Multiplicity (multiplicity.media) was founded, they incubated companies in a co-working space and as rent they charged the companies either cash or “karma” – karma would be in the form of helpful introductions from one founder’s contacts to another. “It’s all good karma.”
He shared: “After a decade of making intro’s for Founders I’ve found that I’m actually really slow at it, because I’m trying to thoughtfully tailor an introduction message.” His techniques: 1. bring folks together – like we do at our Founder’s Only breakfasts or at other Multiplicity events; 2. share his contact list openly with shoot-from-the-hip introductions – i.e. send introductions without asking first – if your friends are really your friends they won’t mind; and 3. it might be worthwhile to give them the heads up that someone might reach out.
Again, I don’t keep a ledger, but I can reasonably assume that the more time I spend propelling others, the more people there are on this earth who want to see me win. I know this, because I’m lucky enough to have had many great friends and mentors of my own, and I’d love nothing more than to see THEM win. It’s this feeling exactly that makes me wonder why so many people are so timid to ask for help. All of those people who are in a position to help you? They didn’t get there alone. They’ll have a laundry list of people who played a part in their success, and if they don’t have amnesia, they’re looking for a chance to jump in and pay it forward. (Okay, this isn’t true of everyone, some people are just jerks….)
Successful people seem to have a common understanding: Unlike the number of drinks you can have in a night, or the number of drinks you can buy without missing rent, success is not finite. Success can take many forms and is not black and white, so we do not need to spend our time and energy trying to pry it from the grips of our peers. Rather than fighting over slices, we can grow the pie together. Go into “the red” on time invested in others (and the beers that may accompany this activity).
Get past the small talk and take the time to understand what gets them out of bed in the morning. Help them if you’re able (you always have something to give), and don’t forget to ask for help. Vulnerability can yield a powerful connection!
Plain and simple: Helping another achieve their goals will do nothing to hinder your own. Whether you’re buying rounds or making introductions, living a generous life will make you the person that people want to be around. If you do the math, you’ll see that’s payback enough.
Oh, and those jerks who are in it for themselves? It’s possible that they’ll wind up with a nicer sailboat than you, but I promise they’ll be jealous of your crew!