Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sucking up to someone versus engaging

Let’s face it, I’m a nobody in the technology sector, at least.
And as they say, “You’re nobody until you’re somebody”.
I’m making a point to engage with many people, both laterally and upwards.
By the former, I mean regular people who are at my level. We’re going to go up together.
By the latter I mean people who are in positions of power.
I had an interesting situation occur a little while back where I paid a compliment to Fred Wilson on his blog and he took it like I was sucking up to him.
In retrospect, I came across that way. But I was genuinely impressed about the kind of role models he and his wife are, as well as the fact that I agree with many of his values.
He evidently feels this way with other people as he recently wrote a blog post about that very issue.
So how does one engage upwards, meaning with people in positions of power?
Take interacting on a blog, for example. I think that type of relationship is both mutually self-serving and mutually benefiting.
On the self-serving side, the person in a position of power wants to help their deal flow, in the case of a VC. And the “upwardly-aspiring individual” wants to help their chances of getting a break somehow, perhaps at some opportune time in the future, by having pre-established a connection.
On the benefit side, the person in a position of power is happy to help others by sharing information and being transparent. And the upwardly-aspiring individual’s job, I believe, is to find their own voice, to be themselves and to engage and contribute to the conversation to the extent that they can. And when they can’t, it’s better to simply listen. And I’m of the view that it’s better to expect nothing to directly come back and to just adopt a mentality of giving before you get.
In my experience with practicing doing random acts of kindness for many years now, if you're willing/able to give, you'll at least generate Karma.

Furthermore, if you can find a meaningful way to help the person in a position of power (assuming they are an achiever and a busy person, which is the archetype I’m addressing here), while remaining genuine and authentic, I’d say you’re increasing the odds of generating favorable opportunities for yourself.
I’m personally focusing now on engaging laterally as much as I can as my primary mode of interaction, on a give-before-getting basis.

The reason is that it's analogous to getting married when you are both poor: when one of you gets wealthy, the other party never thinks it was because of the money -- that gets ruled out.

So if we meet each other and make a great connection before either one of us has "made it", then it will add an extra positive dimension to our relationship at that point.
And don't forget, there is a saying that goes, ‘Be nice to those you meet on the way up; they are the same ones you meet on the way down.”
I think being nice, period, is a good thing. That includes being kind, generous and helpful.
And I’m also committed in engaging upwards as well, but with no expectations of return at this point. I’m simply taking part in the conversation and willing to help, provide feedback, etc., when given the opportunity, provided I have the time.
I believe being willing to engage is healthy, even when nobody seems to care.
I do it for largely myself — for how it makes me feel — and not necessarily for others.

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