Never Eat Alone: Welcome to the Connected Age

This is the sixteenth of sixteen parts of a “book club” reading and discussion of Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz’s Never Eat Alone, where this book on building a lifelong community of colleagues, contacts, friends, and mentors is teased apart and looked at in detail. This entry covers the thirty-first chapter – “Welcome to the Connected Age” – which appears starting on page 291, as well as some concluding thoughts and links back to earlier entries in this series.

neaMuch of the material up to this point in Never Eat Alone occurs offline, in face to face meetings.

But, as you sit there reading this article, the obvious is true. Many of our interactions today take place online. We’re hyperconnected.

Just fifteen years ago, when I was in high school, I would have to stay home waiting by the phone as people played phone tag to make plans. Conversations were infrequent and the vast majority of socialization happened face to face. Today, most teenagers are in constant contact with each other via texting. The vast majority of their socialization takes place through social networking and instant messaging protocols.

That’s a tremendous change, and it’s rippling throughout our world. Quite a lot of my communication with others happens via email and Skype. Thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter, people can get to know others quite well without ever meeting face to face.

Ferrazzi digs into this a bit in the closing chapter of the book.

Community and Alliances
As communication becomes easier and easier, alliances and relationships will become ever more important. On page 291:

Rugged individualism may have ruled for much of the nineteenth and twentieth century. But community and alliances will rule in the twenty-first century. In the digital era, when the Internet has broken down geographical boundaries and connected hundreds of millions of people and computers around the world, there’s no reason to live and work in isolation. We’ve come to realize, again, that success is not contingent on cool technology or venture capital; it’s dependent on whom you know and how you work with them. We’ve rediscovered that the real key to profit is working well with other people.

The vast majority of my work is conversation.

My day is usually filled with reading tons of emails and comments. I’ll then take from those emails and comments some ideas on what people are thinking about, and those provide the seed for future articles.

I’ll spend the day working on articles that are seeded by readers. In essence, these are responses – continuations of the conversation. I’ll post them, and they themselves will receive comment.

The conversation continues.

At my previous job, I did a lot of individual work, but there was still a huge amount of collaboration and conversation involved. I would email other workers for assistance. I would communicate with our clients for feedback. I would communicate with my boss when formulating future directions.

Communication is the key to everything. Working well with others is the one skill, above all, that’s valuable today. Master your interpersonal skills and communication skills and you’ve become much, much more valuable, no matter what you’re doing.

The Rebirth of Unions
Ferrazzi forecasts an interesting development on page 293:

Old style labor unions and guilds are showing signs of revitalization. As the outsourcing of jobs outside the United States continues, and more and more of us become free agents, Americans are finding strength in membership to something larger than themselves. We’re giving our loyalty and trust not to our companies but to our peers.

I don’t believe that the idea of what a union was in the twentieth century will continue to hold. Those unions are dinosaurs, large, dying behemoths locked in a struggle of mutual assured destruction with other dying behemoth corporations.

Instead, the future of unions is in actually caring about your peers and helping them to succeed directly. It won’t be some collective bargainer that you pay to negotiate a slightly better wage or better conditions for you. It’ll be a good relationship with the guy in the other department who will help you out when you need it.

I’m about as “free agent” as one can get. Yet, I’m part of an organization much like this LifeRemix. The handful of people in this small group are peers. We all write (in various media) materials that strive to help others succeed in life. Because of that, we often have similar experiences and utilize similar resources.

By sharing those experiences and resources with each other, all of us in that group benefit. I’ve established great interpersonal relationships with many of them virtually and I look forward to meeting many of those people in the future.

What Is Our Legacy?
After all of this, what are we leaving behind in this world? Ferrazzi digs into this a bit on page 293:

Certainly, some of us will tally success in terms of income and promotions. Others will cite their newfound celebrity or the exciting expertise that they’ve amassed. For others still, it will be the fabulous dinner parties they throw or the aspirational contacts they’ve befriended.

But will such success feel empty? Instead of being surrounded by a loving family and a trusted circle of friends, will you only have colleagues and clients?

Sooner or later, in one way or another, we all will ask ourselves these questions. Moreover, we’ll look back on our life and wonder, What is my legacy? What have I done that is meaningful?

I don’t like to think of my own mortality. Such thoughts make me uncomfortable.

However, I do wonder (quite often, really) what my mark on this world will be.

I’m lucky in that The Simple Dollar has reached a lot of people in a positive way. I’ve read tons of emails from people who have begun turning their financial life around. I also have a book in print and another on the way.

I also have the legacy of my children. I strive to raise them well and I think (or is it hope?) that they’re starting off in the right fashion.

But what beyond that? What can I do with my life that will help as many other lives as possible?

It’s something I puzzle over all the time, and it’s starting to guide me more and more.

Some Final Thoughts
Quite a few people were surprised when I chose to dig so deeply into Never Eat Alone here on The Simple Dollar. After all, this is a personal finance blog. Shouldn’t I be talking about investments or saving money on ketchup?

Here’s the truth. I believe that successful money management comes about as a result of success in a lot of different aspects of life – and one major part of that is the relationships you build with others. Do you have a lot of people you can call a friend, both in personal and professional circles? These people provide companionship, advice, encouragement, and opportunities, almost at every turn.

In short, they’re integral to your career. They’re integral to opening personal and professional doors for you. They’re integral in helping you through the hard times in life.

People without such relationships are often in a tough spot. They have no one to call if they lose their job. They can’t organize a party when they need help re-shingling their roof. They never have the opportunity to meet the leaders in their field because they’re never invited in the door.

That’s the whole point of Never Eat Alone. Successful relationships with other people often make or break the success you experience in your own life, not just professionally, but personally, too.

For those of us who aren’t naturally socially adept, Never Eat Alone is a powerful handbook for doing just that. Even if you don’t agree with all of the ideas and tactics presented, the book is always thought provoking and it’s always pushing in the direction of building more and better relationships with the people all around you.

That, my friends, is a recipe for success in life.

Other Entries
Here are the fifteen earlier entries in the Never Eat Alone book club series. Enjoy!

Don’t Keep Score (chapters 1 and 2)
Build It Before You Need It (chapters 3 and 4)
The Genius of Audacity (chapters 5 and 6)
Do Your Homework (chapters 7 and 8)
Managing the Gatekeeper (chapters 9 and 10)
Share Your Passions (chapters 11 and 12)
Follow Up or Fail (chapters 13 and 14)
Expanding Your Circle (chapters 15 and 16)
The Art of Small Talk (chapters 17 and 18)
Social Arbitrage (chapters 19 and 20)
Anchor Tenants (chapters 21 and 22)
Build and Broadcast (chapters 23 and 24)
The Write Stuff (chapters 25 and 26)
Build It and They Will Come (chapters 27 and 28)
Find Mentors, Find Mentees, Repeat (chapters 29 and 30)

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  1. I really enjoyed the never eat alone book review series! Thanks for reviewing it! I learned quite a few useful things when it comes to networking and social connections.

  2. Anna says:

    This been an excellent sustained review of a book whose point of view and advice are much needed, especially in these times.

    May I recommend another book devoted to making and strengthening connections with other people: Personal Village, by Marvin Thomas.

    (Disclaimer: I have no connection with the book, its author, or the publisher. I’ve just gotten a lot out of reading it.)

  3. AnnJo says:

    The quotations you gave from the book seem less than credible as fact, regardless of how well they advance the author’s theme.

    It is a myth that the 19th and 20th centuries were times of “rugged individualism” rather than community. Fraternal organizations, ethnic organizations, unions, guilds, neighborhood associations, churhes and extended families were all far stronger then than they are now, and people actually depended on them.

    My nieces and nephew may be on Facebook and MySpace and send relentless inane WUU2 texts to their friends, but my grandparents were in the Elks or the Masons (and their female and youth organizations like Eastern Star and Rainbow) with their weekly events and lifelong associations. They went to the Polish Hall or Croatian group for their weekly dances or potlucks and their mutual aid societies and their church groups with weekly events. They were in a voluntary union at work or a craft guild or in farming communities the local grange, and they lived in three-generation households often with a newly immigrated cousin or a co-worker boarding there as well. For those who went to college, fraternities and sororities became life-time attachments.

    The notion that labor unions are making a recurrence, especially as evidence of greater community, is also bizarre. Labor union membership in the private sector is as low as its ever been (9%).

    The only evidence of change is in the direction of greater coercion of workers by taking away their right to a secret ballot on whether to unionize, so that unionization can be accomlished through fear and intimidation – hardly a movement toward greater community. Further, most union activism is centered around trying to get government to rescue bankrupt unionized companies and to take over non-unionized business sectors like health care.

    I’m not sure why these authors felt it necessary to distort the historical record in order to make their points. Perhaps contrasting today’s more sophisticated but far more superficial and transitory connectivity with our ancestors’ deeper, more enduring connections would not have been as upbeat a message and so wouldn’t have sold as many books.

  4. Bit late to the party, here, but I have to say I enjoyed the review more than I thought I would.

    I still feel like I have to archive most of the advice, since I have *yet* to come up to something where I’d use it. I’m so torn between following a traditional sort of career for a while or just chasing down my freelancing dreams… I’m hoping to make a move in the next few months that will allow me more time to work on developing those freelancing skills. (I really like the “portability” of a freelancing career, especially if my husband’s going to be career military.)

    Still, networking is something I’m trying to work on. Just joined twitter to help with it, but I still always feel like I come off as insincere when that’s so not how I mean to be!!

    Any advice on how to fix that? Or figuring out what value you can provide people? I know it’s important, I just suck at coming up with these sorts of ideas. I’m better at implementing….

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