So…. how many resolutions did you make around New Years? More than last year? More than ever?
Asking that, I’m reminded of when I attended a conference, years ago, with a colleague who was all about collecting new LinkedIn connections. At the end of the weekend, she proudly showed me her account with over a hundred new people in her network. “How many did you get?” she asked me.
I said maybe twenty, but I had to add that, really, over the three days of the conference, I’d only spent quality time with five people. She seemed shocked. Didn’t I see that I’d totally wasted my time!?
Fast forward to today. Each of those five people I spent time with at that conference is someone I still see frequently, someone who has become a treasured source of advice and support — as I have tried to be for them. And my colleague’s “one hundred new business contacts?” I’d bet that few of those people even remember her.
So, back to those New Year’s resolutions. How many did you make? How many different changes and projects and plans have you got in mind for 2017? Before the year gets any older, it may be time to ask yourself: Am I focusing on the quality of my work, my relationships, my learning, or am I just throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks?
To get the quantity/quality balance right, you have to make a purposeful decision to swim against the cultural current. These days it’s like the world is conspiring to make us think that volume and quantity are all that matters. Just think of the hurricane of content that we can now consume through the vast array of media outlets — the sheer volume of Netflix programming alone would be enough to keep someone busy for the rest of their life!
And then there’s social media. They say that a hundred years ago, a person got to know a hundred other people in their lifetime. Today we may interact with thousands of people in our lifetime — even if it is only through a “like” or an emoji. Or think about the world of business conferences and networking events. It would be entirely possible to spend your whole working life attending conferences, but the reality is even if you did, I’m not sure how much you’d be learning because the scene is the same in so many places — panels of speakers sitting in front of a crowd of people barely listening because their heads are in their phones, trying to keep up with their social media networks.
For contrast, I think back to when my father was a CEO in the 1980s. There was no email, no Internet and no LinkedIn. His circle of focus was limited to his own direct team and to industry colleagues he had met in person. There was no risk he’d find himself with fifty LinkedIn networking “in mails” to answer each day. He would have spent the time I spend skimming over fifty casual networking requests on reading one carefully focused letter written by one aspiring junior executive. And while the new technology absolutely gives me access to a broader range of people, the truth is that in the end I’m looking for what my father was looking for — one person who has done a boatload of deep research and put in the thoughtful effort to make a clear and creative case for what we could do together. That person may reach me through social media, but they are not just spamming me and ninety-nine other people in the industry with a form letter. They are offering me a well-planned, thoughtful, personal connection, showing me that they “get” what I do and what help I might need, and that they genuinely care about some of the things I, too, care about and work on.
So as you move beyond making resolutions and get down to the work of living them, if you want to make significant progress against your goals, I’d suggest you focus on a very small number of high-quality commitments. I know my mantra for 2017 will be Fewer, Bigger, Better!
Here are three (just three!) Extreme moves to achieve this mantra:
1. Commit to the BIG things you really want.
Don’t hedge your bets by throwing lots of things at the wall to see what sticks. Instead, really focus. Make a list of your resolutions / goals / wishes / schemes for this year and then cut it down to just one or two. Put as much of your effort as possible there.
2. STOP emphasizing the size of your network.
We have so many opportunities to meet new people and so many tricks for expanding our virtual networks. Look at the people in your Facebook and LinkedIn networks today and honestly ask yourself – how many of these people REALLY know you? How many make a difference in living the life and reaching the goals that you just identified? Instead of spam-networking to build your numbers, make extra time to connect with the people who matter most.
3. Be ready to give your FULL attention.
When you’re with those people who could really matter, or when you’re at that one conference that’s exactly what you were after (as opposed to those five vaguely related ones), remember that it’s on you to make it worthwhile. Turn off your phone. Focus on the material and speakers you really want to hear from. Eliminate the distractions and go ALL IN on the experience. And then notice what a difference that makes.
If you liked this article, check out my book Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. for more on success, breaking expectations, and developing and combining your diverse traits — flaws and all — to tap into your potential.