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A New Way to Map Your Social Network

December 3 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

Our constant engagement with technology has introduced an additional way to map social networks. Instead of relying on what you say, you can now analyze what you do. Consider the following questions:

  • When you call your friends and leave a voicemail, which ones call you back right away and which ones seemingly take forever?
  • Do your friends call and invite you to parties on Friday and Saturday nights?
  • Do you spend more time chatting when you make calls or when you receive calls?

You may not know the answers to these questions – but your mobile phone provider does. Using network analysis software, phone companies study the call records of subscribers. They know who you call (or receive calls from) most frequently, how long you stay on the phone with these people, and who you correspond with the most via text message.

Those who make long calls, receive calls during party-hour weekend times, and who get quick call-backs after leaving voicemails are deemed “influential” within their social networks – and pampered appropriately. Similarly, instead of asking you to list your most important ties, Facebook tracks the profiles you naturally interact with the most and displays those people’s updates to you more often.

Are You in Permanent Beta?

November 26 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

Technology companies sometimes keep the beta test phase label on software for a time after the official launch to stress that the product is not finished so much as ready for the next batch of improvements. Jeff Bezos, founder/CEO of Amazon concludes every annual letter to shareholders by reminding readers, as he did in his first annual letter in 1997, that “It’s still Day 1” of the Internet and of Amazon.com:

“Though we are optimistic, we must remain vigilant and maintain a sense of urgency.”

In other words, Amazon is never finished: It’s always Day 1. For entrepreneurs, finished is an F-word. They know that great companies are always evolving.

Finished ought to be an F-word for all of us. We are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more in our lives and careers. Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s more QA (quality assurance) testing to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve. But it’s still a mind-set brimming with optimism because it celebrates the fact that you have the power to improve yourself and, more important, improve the world around you.

The Impact of Relationships on Your Health

November 12 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

In Reid’s latest LinkedIn post, he explains why relationships matter to your career. But beyond being good for your career, there is at least one other benefit: friends keep you alive. Several studies have shown that, all else equal, you have a better chance of beating a disease if you enjoy the support of friends.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco looked at the survival rates among women diagnosed with breast cancer. They found that women without ten or more friends were four times as likely to die during the test period than those with the close friends. Another study in Australia showed that those with many friendships live longer and healthier than those without similar social networks.

For those of us not dying from cancer, friends do more than just keep us healthy; they make us happy. In recent years, psychologists and gurus have paraded onto morning talk shows bearing myriad theories of happiness. Their talking points vary, but they agree on one thing: human relationships, especially good friends, are the leading predictor of a happy existence.

They matter so much that you’d be wise to value these relationships over near any level of professional achievement. “[O]ne of the key findings,” David Brooks once concluded in a column summarizing studies of well-being, “is that, just as the old sages predicted, worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through.”

Introducing The Start-Up of You Student Fellows

October 29 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

Last July, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha announced The Start-Up of You Student Fellowship. This exclusive online network was created to recognize and connect the most entrepreneurial student leaders in the world and empower them to do more. Each of them has shown a remarkable dedication to improving themselves, their networks, and their communities. We would like to introduce you to them.

The Three Ways to Introduce Two People Over Email

October 22 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

As we talk about in the chapter “It Takes a Network,” a good way to strengthen your network is to make an introduction between two people who would benefit from knowing each other.

When you introduce two people, you’re in a unique situation:

1. You’re at an informational advantage: You know both parties, and usually you know why the two should get to know each other. Meanwhile, they know nothing about each other.

2. Both people are presumably busy, so you want to make it easy for them to take action and quickly decide if it makes sense to get to know each other.

3. You’ve instantly bestowed social pressure on both the recipients. Because you know each of the recipients, they will feel social pressure to respond (whether you intend this or not). The worst introductory emails make busy people resent having to respond to someone they don’t know, whom they aren’t sure why they’re being introduced.

Read our article that covers three types of email introductions.

The Myth of the Lone Inventor

October 5 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

In The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, he writes about a question the psychologist Carol Dweck asks her students:

When you think of Thomas Edison, she asks them, what do you see?

“He’s standing in a white coat in a lab-type room,” comes the average reply. “He’s leaning over a light bulb. Suddenly, it works!”

“Is he alone?” Dweck asks.
“Yes. He’s kind of a reclusive guy who likes to tinker on his own.”

As Dweck relishes in pointing out, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Edison actually thrived in group settings, and when he invented the light bulb, he did so with the help of 30 assistants. Edison was actually a social creative, not a lone wolf!

In The Start-Up of You, we emphasize the tremendous professional networks of people like JP Morgan, Ben Franklin and Joseph Priestly–each formed critical alliances in their career that allowed them to make groundbreaking innovations. Just as there’s a myth of a lone inventor like Edison, there’s a myth that successful professionals and CEOs today are lone superheroes. Mark Zuckerberg is a talented guy, but his greatest talent might be attracting all-star people to his team. In your career, you need to be similarly devoted to building teams around you to help you get to where you want to go.

Recognizing Disguised Breakout Opportunities

September 15 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

Awesome career opportunities are not always so obviously awesome.

Nassim Taleb made this point in The Black Swan:

Many people do not realize they are getting a lucky break in life when they get it. If a big publisher (or a big art dealer or a movie executive or a hotshot banker or a big thinker) suggests an appointment, cancel anything you have planned: you may not see such a window open up again.

Marc Andreessen stresses that sometimes opportunities come in more subtle packages:

A senior person at your firm is looking for someone young and hungry to do the legwork on an important project.

A small group of your smartest friends are headed to Denny’s at 11 PM to discuss an idea for a startup — would you like to come along?

Being able to recognize — and act on — disguised or subtle opportunities is a skill of the best entrepreneurial professionals.

Reid Hoffman Interviewed by Keith Ferrazzi on The Art of the Pivot

July 20 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

Reid was recently interviewed by Keith Ferrazzi, author of two notable books on relationships, Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back?

Keith asked Reid about pivoting as the entrepreneur of your own career:

“What do you think is more difficult in the pivoting process: Changing the nature of who you are, whether it’s a company or yourself, or changing the perception others have of who you used to be?”

Reid’s response, emphasis added: (You can also listen to the MP3 or read the PDF transcript of the entire interview).

Well, as you very well know, both are quite hard, and so it’s kind of a choice between hard facet number one and hard facet number two. I think that the key thing in both the substance of the reinvention and also the brand promise, and how people perceive you, is…. It just takes time. 

“One of the things I sketched out very early days in LinkedIn was never have a bad experience. Try to minimize the bad experiences and then build up more and more positive experiences over time. So for example, there’s many users at LinkedIn that go, ‘Look, I think that it’s valuable for when I’m going to go look for a job, and so I leave it there for then and I don’t really use it very much on a day-to-day basis.’ And that’s because we focused on growth first, and then a baseline for revenue for outbound professionals or for people when they were looking for a job. Now we’re saying, ‘Okay, well, now here’s the set of features that could be useful to you on a daily basis.’

We essentially have the ability to win people’s trust as we do this because we worked really hard to make sure they never had negative experiences in getting to this point…. And now we’re essentially saying, ‘Well, here’s some great things for you.’… We’re building those up in order to cause people to re-engage over time. 

“I think the same thing is true for individuals in their careers, because the notion maybe is like, ‘Look, I spent 10 to 20 years focused on building my career, being an executive, making this go, building my own business, and now I want to add in other things to it.’ It’s like, all right, that’s just like any other product or any other company. You need to begin to layer those things in over time, in terms of relationships that you build, in terms of the activities that you do, in terms of the projects that you succeed in. I think it’s the same challenge.”

Right now you can buy Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Who’s Got Your Back? and The Start-Up of You together on Amazon and get an extra 5% off.

Discovering Market Realities: Starbucks

June 1 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

In 1985, when Howard Schultz (current CEO of Starbucks) was preparing to launch coffee bars in America modeled after those already in Italy, he and his partners didn’t just launch the stores on a whim. They first did everything in their power to understand the dynamics of the market they were entering. They visited five hundred espresso bars in Milan and Verona to learn as much as they possibly could. How did the Italians design their cafes? What were the local coffee-drinking habits? How did the baristas serve coffee? What did the menus look like? They scribbled observations in notebooks and videotaped the stores in action. This kind of market research is not a one-time thing entrepreneurs do when a start-up first launches, either. David Neeleman founded his own airline, JetBlue Airways, and served as CEO for the first seven years. During that time he flew his own airline at least once a week, worked the cabin, and blogged about his experience: “Each week I fly on JetBlue flights and talk to customers so I can find out how we can improve our airline,” he wrote. 

Schultz and Neeleman had tremendous vision when they started founded their start-ups. Yet from day one they focused on the needs of their customers and stakeholders. For all their smarts and vision, they knew well what VC and friend Marc Andreessen likes to say: “Markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are.” Similarly, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked or how passionate you are about an aspiration: If someone won’t pay you for your services in the career marketplace, it’s going to be a very hard slog. You aren’t entitled to anything.

Empathize By Mirroring Body Language

May 26 2012 - posted by The Start-Up of You Team

Building a genuine relationship with another person depends on seeing the world from another person’s perspective. In relationships it’s only when you put yourself in the other person’s shoes that you begin to develop an honest connection. Discovering what people want, in the words of start-up investor Paul Graham, “deals with the most difficult problem in human experience: how to see things from other people’s point of view, instead of thinking only of yourself.” Likewise, in relationships, it’s only when you truly put yourself in the other person’s shoes that you begin to develop an honest connection. This is tough. Whereas entrepreneurs have some ways of measuring how well they understand their customers by ultimately watching sales rise and fall, in day-to-day social life there’s no such immediate feedback. Compounding that challenge is the fact that the basic way we perceive and process the external world makes us feel like everything revolves around us. The late writer David Foster Wallace once noted this literal truth: “There is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of you or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV or your monitor.”

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor describes his experience watching rugby in a bar in Australia. After a particularly hard hit, everyone around him grabbed their head in the same place the rugby player had been hit. He describes the phenomenon: 

We had all responded physically, involuntarily (and quite dramatically), as though we ourselves had been hit. Mirror neurons are specialized brain cells that can actually sense and then mimic the feelings, actions, and physical sensations of another person. Let’s say a person is pricked by a needle. The neurons in the pain center of his or her brain will immediately light up, which should come as no surprise. But what is a surprise is that when that same person sees someone else receive a needle prick, this same set of neurons lights up, just as though he himself had been pricked. In other words, he actually feels a hint of the pain of a needle prick, even though he himself hasn’t been touched. This is why smiles become contagious and why babies automatically mimic the funny faces their parents make. 

Mirroring the other person’s body language is a way to take advantage of one’s brain circuitry to help us empathize with someone and moves us closer to seeing the world from their point of view.