Updated on 08.29.08

Review: Love Is the Killer App

Trent Hamm

Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal productivity, personal development, or business/entrepreneurship book of interest.

love is the killer appOne profound thing I’ve always noticed is that if you give something of value away freely, with no strings attached, and don’t expect anything in return, and do it routinely and often enough, you’ll get far more in return than you’ve ever given. It’s one of those things that’s impossible to express in a clear balance sheet, because there is no real balance to it. You give and you get. What goes around comes around.

One of my earliest book reviews, the excellent Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, focuses in on this idea, in a way. Ferrazzi’s book mostly focuses on networking in the modern era, suggesting that you should use every opportunity you can to make connections and then when you see opportunities to help people, just do it automatically. The end result is a large collection of connections that have some loyalty to you, and that can be invaluable if you’re in need.

Love Is the Killer App takes that idea even further. The general idea that Tim Sanders presents here is that you should work to maximize your own personal value by learning as much as you can, connecting with as many people as you can, and sharing that knowledge and those connections as freely as possible. By sharing your knowledge and your connections, you multiply your value to others.

Is this a good complement to the excellent Never Eat Alone, or does it merely retread the same ground?

The Lovecat Way
What is a “lovecat,” exactly? It’s an overly cutesy term for something rather obvious: a person who is known for sharing what they have and is valued for it. You probably know a lovecat or two – think of the people you know who are consistently reliable with good information and help. You tend to turn to them regularly with questions and to bounce ideas off of them, and their responses are usually knowledgeable and spot-on. Plus, when you need a hand, they’ve usually got the resources you need. In short, you value these people – and you’re not alone. Lots of people value lovecats.

Now, take it to the next step – if a person like that, someone you’ve been able to consistently bounce ideas off of, get help from, and has regularly been a source of clients, calls you up and asks for some help, you’re likely going to give them all the help you can possibly provide, right? Also, when you are talking to your friends, you’re likely to notice that those “lovecats” come up often – you talk about them. That’s the inherent value of being a lovecat – by giving freely, value comes around over time.

Sanders lists quite a few additional benefits of being a lovecat: you build a reputation for yourself, you have access to the attention of a lot of people, they give you a positive benefit of the doubt, you get great feedback on your ideas, and you also get the personal satisfaction of helping people. Add them up, and it becomes clear that when you consistently give a little of yourself to others, a lot more comes around in subtle and different ways.

But how can you get there? Sanders breaks it down into three pieces, which should logically be followed in order.

The most valuable resource you can personally have, regardless of the area you’re involved in, is knowledge. By knowledge, Sanders refers to a deep and intrinsic understanding of your areas of expertise and how they connect to others. If you can become the most knowledgeable person around in an area that’s valuable to others, they’ll come to you for help and you’ll become known for this knowledge – and thus yourself valuable to others.

The first step is to figure out what areas you wish to become strongly knowledgeable in. Preferably, it’s an area strongly connected to your professional life. For example, if you’re a computer programmer sitting in a cubicle somewhere, you should become deeply knowledgeable not only about the art of computer programming, but also in how it relates to the overall function of your organization.

This means reading. A lot. Sanders suggests reading the trade journals a bit, but you should focus most of your reading and knowledge acquisition on meaty books on your topic of interest. Read the foundational books in your area – for example, if you’re a programmer, a good pair to tackle are Donald Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming and Abelson, Sussman, and Sussman’s Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. But don’t just read them – take notes on them and try to actually absorb what they’re saying. Take it slow, take notes, go back and reread previous pieces, and make sure you’re actually adding to your own knowledge along the way.

This shouldn’t be a one-time thing, but a consistent thing you do over time. Continual learning, particularly from challenging books, is the way to make yourself a strong source of valuable knowledge, both for yourself and for others. The trick, though, is finding ways to share that knowledge so that it does provide value for others.

The next step, of course, is to take that knowledge and use it. But how? Sanders breaks it down into three pieces.

First, build contacts. This means meeting people and sharing your knowledge with them. Attend conferences and meetings, ask intelligent questions (based on your knowledge), and answer some, too (based on your knowledge). This will help cement relationships with a lot of different people in your area of interest. Talk to the people you brush up against in those meetings, learn more about them, and maintain a contact with them.

Next, build connections. If you do this enough, you’ll build a bunch of contacts, and you’ll begin to see some obvious connections among those contacts. Person A has a need that Person B can help fulfill. Person A and Person B don’t know each other, but have a lot in common. Your next step is to connect those people together – introduce them and point out what they have in common.

Finally, disappear. Once you’ve made that connection and you can see it’s clicking, back away. You’re not needed anymore, but your value in building that connection will be remembered. Quite often, if that connection bears fruit, you’ll be remembered for it, even though you only just helped to put the pieces together.

The final key is compassion. At first glance, it seems over the top and silly, but it makes a lot of sense. If you genuinely care about the success of another person, let them know and do what you can to help them succeed. Tell them, flat out, that you want them to succeed, and back it up with whatever support you can provide.

To some, this will seem like sucking up or sucking down, but if it’s backed up by genuine care and action, it doesn’t really matter what it seems like. What matters is that you actually do care and that you show that you care, in thought, word, and deed. True caring comes through, and when it’s loaded with knowledge and contacts, it can be truly invaluable and can cement a lifelong relationship.

Some Thoughts on Love Is the Killer App
I really like Sanders’ idea that knowledge is such a fundamental part of building professional relationships. Many people focus too intensely on social relationships that really don’t matter because there’s no real value exchanged. You don’t learn anything or gain anything from the “power networking” guy down the hall other than a brush-off when you’re not useful for his immediate goals.

The actual part on networking seems to strongly assume you’re already outgoing and strong at mechanics of networking and socialization. Love Is the Killer App is pretty clearly a book that works best for extroverts – as an introvert who has to work very hard to make socializing work, I would have been lost by the networking chapter without some supplemental materials. If you’re in this boat, Never Eat Alone is far superior for teaching the fundamentals of how to network and build relationships – I suspect that book’s author to be highly introverted, which is actually a good thing for an introvert learning how to build such relationships.

“Disappearing” is something that many people fail to do well. The idea that you put a bunch of effort into cultivating and building a relationship between two other people, only to back away and leave them to their own ends, is fairly difficult for some. Think of it this way: three’s always a crowd, and if you’re not part of the value being exchanged, you’re the third wheel.

Is Love Is the Killer App Worth Reading?
Sanders provides the most rational and detailed description and explanation I’ve ever read of the “what goes around, comes around” phenomenon and how it can help you personally and professionally. If you honestly don’t understand the benefits of just helping others without sweating the consequences, Love Is the Killer App is a must-read.

Aside from that, the general premise of the book was something that seemed very common sense to me. The value, for me, was in the details – for example, the connection of building your own personal knowledge to the process of building valuable relationships isn’t something I’d ever really considered.

In short, Love Is the Killer App is a great read if you’re interested in connecting with others and building professional relationships. It’s actually quite complementary with Never Eat Alone – the latter focuses specifically on the mechanics of how to make those connections, while this book focuses on the context of why you should do it and what steps you should take to build a foundation for it. Personally, I found them both valuable, with Never Eat Alone being a bit more personally useful, but I can easily see how Love Is the Killer App could be more useful and compelling to many.

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  1. Solomon@ThingsI'mGratefulFor says:

    Giving freely means others will give freely back to you? In an ideal world, yes it probably does. But in the real world, people can and do take advantage of one another.

    Simply being nice to people is no guarantee that they will be nice back.

  2. Good review! I’m actually more interested in “Never Eat Alone” now. I do agree with the premise for each book, however. Life is just a lot richer with a strong network of people. So what if a few people take advantage of you along the way? Lots more will help or be helped by you!

  3. justin says:

    The Golden Rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

  4. Ryan McLean says:

    This sounds like an awesome book. If I wasn’t too busy working, running my entrepreneur blog and preparing forme WEDDING!!!! then I would definately buy it.
    Maybe when i get back from my honeymoon I will buy it

  5. Ray says:

    Thanks for this post! I just happen to be looking for books on networking–how timely!

  6. Tori says:

    The word lovecat still gives me hives.

  7. IRG says:

    In an ideal world, what goes round comes round. The reality in today’s highly competitive businesses, where bosses pit “team” members against one another, and divisions against each other, is, sadly, something else.

    In many companies, those who extend themselves are seen as fools or worse, weak co-workers.

    Sharing information, offering assistance without gain or goal, alas, are frequently “rewarded” by being used and abused by other staffers, whose only goals is to succeed at any price –and who are usually rewarded by top management because they claim the credit for the work of others and fail to ever give credit to others who help.

    That should not stop us from offering aid and information–if we can find companies and managers and bosses who actually value cooperation and commonsense.

    One should help where one can, not to gain anything. But because it is the “right” thing to do. It’s pretty sad that we live in a world where people have to write books to educate people on how to give and share. (Well, there are so few examples in the work world. I guess we do need “guidebooks.” But the people who need them the most, don’t read them.)

    Life is more than networking and in fact, for many, networking is usually one-way. With a lot of people networking for personal gain only, despite their posturing.

    I’ve found jobs for lots of people over my years of working and hired many folks repeatedly. I’ve actively done what I could to help people at work, even when it wasn’t my job. I don’t regret any of it, even when a few of the people I helped returned the compassion by unprofessional behavior.

    In the end, very few of those I’ve helped were ever there to “return” the favor in any form of networking.

    However, there were strangers who extended themselves, with no networking history. So there is a circle of good, but not always where you might expect it. People who should, logically, based on your help, be willing to extend themselves, often do not. While others, who have NO reason, will help.

    So, sometimes, the good you put out there comes back. But mostly, just do good because it’s better than doing nothing. Or worse, actively hurting others in business or life.

    Even if you get screwed in business, as the most compassionate generally do, it’s still worth extending yourself.

    Some things just can’t be measured on a profit/loss statement.

  8. Tania says:

    “Never Eat Alone” is a great book. But “Love is the killer app” I did not like at all. To me it sounded like self-enamoured banter devoid of all content except for “Look people how great I am!” And the word lovecat is completely yucky.

    Also, mentioning Knuth’s book in this context is very strange. This book is a collection of algorithms and data structures and has no relation whatsoever to “how [your work] relates to the overall function of your organization”. If someone wanted to be a better soccer player, I don’t think you’ll tell them to go and read books on physics.

  9. Shelley says:

    Showing my age or ignorance here — what is an ‘App’? I’m afraid the title of the book puts me off. Sounds like someone tried to turn “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” into something just too cool for my taste.

  10. Kim says:

    I am going on a trip later this week and was thinking of getting “Never Eat Alone” as an audio book. Would you recommend the unabridged version or the shortened staging version?

  11. Soo says:

    My 76 year old father is a wonderful example of someone naturally living his life according to the principles in Love is the Killer App. Generously sharing his knowledge, networks and compassion everyday – expecting nothing but the personal satisfaction of having helped and served others – and always surprised when his kindness leads to his own life being enriched in some way.

    After reading Love is… I was filled with gratitude for the example of my dad. I eagerly rushed him a copy of the book, telling him I recognised him on every page and acknowledging him. Of course, the he did not get it – the book held no appeal to the humble man who instead lives its common sense pages.

    I, on the other hand, introverted personality that I am, realised that these things do not come automatically for me and I appreciated the authors exhortation to both value and practise connecting with others.

    Later I was fortunate to find a dozen or so copies of the book heavily discounted at my annual bookstore sale. I bought them all and regularly give copies to friends and acquaintances who are launching out on their own in business – wishing them success and reminding them of the rich life to be found by applying the lovecat principles. (Entrepreurial life can be lonely at times).

    I also devoured Never Eat Alone – having been introduced to it by none other than Tim Sanders himself, author of …Killer App. Sign up for his newsletter – I have yet to be disappointed by his reading recommendations.

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