It is not who you know, it is what they are willing to do for you
Focus on the strength of relationships… not simply positioning
Greetings from London’s Heathrow airport.
Yesterday I graduated with my Master of Science Degree in Sport and ExerciseÂ Nutrition, strolling across the stage (moments after Rowan, who picked up his MSc in Exercise Physiology) in my boat shoes and shaking a few hands to signify the official entry into an elite tribe, a worldwide network of elite sporting people. Loughborough is far and away the most prestigious and prolific sporting (from an academic AND athletic perspective) University on the planet, and I somehow became A Loughborough Person this year. Whether you are in Madrid, Cape Town, or in the States, chances are if you peek into an elite sporting setup there is a Loughborough influence. This old-boy network cannot be overrated.
After the ceremony the fresh graduates went for lunch, and looking around the room I remarked at the incredibly varied backgrounds, skill-sets, and futures of the folks in the room with me. From Italy to Lebanon to Cayman to Korea, I now intimately know–having ground through an incredible year with–people from literally every corner of the globe, people who are without a doubt the best and brightest of the young crop of Sports Scientists. This new generation (granted, my perspective is biased…deal with it!) is not just another box off the conveyor belt; the days of extreme conservatism in the sporting world are over. New, exciting initiatives (like our High Performance Culture) are being pushed through, and folks with the guts to run against the grain briefly are finding wide open pastures of opportunity. It dawned on me that the group of people in the room are about toÂ go and do some incredible things which–at the risk of hyperbole–are likely to change the world and the people within it.
Later on, a few of the advanced researchers joined us at the pub for a pint or eight. We gossiped about the greater Sports Science community and daydreamed of our next adventures. Boys being boys, you might say! While we all have or continue to have outstanding experiences within the Loughborough Bubble, the real value of being within this network comes when we all spread our wings and experience new opportunities elsewhere. Speaking to these colleagues–whom Rowan and I greatly look up to–the sheer breadth of the personal networks at hand was mind-blowing. It made me think about the role of modern networking in human success and how it relates to our historical or evolutionary equivalents. I don’t need to preach to you about how it’s not what you know, but who you know–yet reflecting on it first-hand made me rather warm and fuzzy yesterday! Ancient humans had only the tribe around them, likely a group sized such that everyone knew everyone else, and opportunity and resourcefulness within each tribe relied entirely on like-ability and personal skills.
I’ve realized that this is no different from today: We ‘know’ many folks whom we have only communicated with via social media, email, or even just a coffee at a conference, sometimes a quick handshake after a guest lecture!…yet how funny is it that things are no different in 2014 than caveman times: How much we benefit from our interactions with people STILL depends almost entirely on if they like you and if you provide value to them! Our tribes are now massive; we float around the world, getting degrees in different places, almost being tribal tourists, if you will. Even meaningful interactions often reflect in transient friendships, as a connection which lasts decades and provides fruitful business connections might still be based upon mere days worth of in-person interactions (see Chiang Mai). Therefore be good to your tribe, be thankful of your tribe, and bring value to your tribe!