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The inner circle

However, being a “super connector” is very different from having a supersized network.

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Is bigger always better? When it comes to networks, not necessarily.

In my decade’s stint in various capacities as a hospital administrator, I’ve come to realize that one must very (very, very) carefully curate one’s most trusted, inner circle.

You’ll be surprised at how much more valuable you’ll become to the larger community of people in the world when they care about the same things that you do.

“Bigger is better” oftentimes becomes the prevailing assumption, well, in just about anything. It’s natural for us to want to “supersize” our network of connections — the more people we know, the greater the chance of being exposed to opportunities that can lead to professional advancement, mentors, material success and so on.

However, being a “super connector” is very different from having a supersized network.  Rather, its about surrounding yourself with a carefully selected group of people whom you admire and respect, ones with whom you share common values and beliefs.

These people will set the tone for the foundation of your larger network filled with people who provide value to one another.  That core group? It should be a lot smaller than you think.

Time is the one thing we can never buy or get back. We’ve all got time-management issues. I strive to find time for work, family and “spare” time for that necessary evil we call networking.

If you were once like me, you probably built your network haphazardly, connecting with anyone who’ll communicate with you.

You probably had a hard time saying no to people. As a result, people you hardly even know make demands on your time and, like a true mensch, you keep on trying to accommodate them.

But as I’ve come to realize, undiscerning generosity is self-defeating. By giving your time to 50 people rather than, say, five, you make far less of an impact on the world than the sheer volume of your network might have you think.

It’s important to consider the people in your inner circle, as these are the ones who will deeply and profoundly influence you.

Social media is a way to connect and reconnect, and I use that as a tool for networking as well, but keep in mind that people on your network, digitally or otherwise, will draw snap judgements of you. Same goes for how people may perceive you as they judge you by who you keep in your inner circle.

This doesn’t mean that you should fill your inner circle with high-profile contacts whose shine might rub off on you. It means you should seek out and nurture relationships with good, smart and honest people — ones that can help you to be a bigger and better version of yourself.

In other words, be ruthlessly selective because everyone in your core group also has an inner circle with which you will be ultimately connected, and those people will have an inner circle, and so on.  Professionally, I’ve interacted with tens of thousands of individuals, but I’ve learned that it’s best to have only a handful of people and activities I will make time for religiously.

For example, I have a few friends and colleagues who I reach out to quite regularly, ones who keep me grounded.  I have a physician executive colleague whom I talk to who’s involved in various projects and reminds me to think big. My close group of friends from high school keep me humble and connected to my roots. My wife, parents and siblings are my ultimate coaches, and as we make memories together I take every opportunity to learn from them and pick their brains for ideas and guidance.

With each person in this circle, the conversation is unfiltered and trust is absolute. These people are part of the rock-solid foundation that guides me further into not only advancement but to fulfillment. I choose them, not to the exclusion of all others, but because they make me a better person for the thousands of others with whom I interact.

So, ask yourself this: Who did you recently spend time with? What types of people do you want to spend more time with, and what types do you want to cut out entirely?

Remember that relationships should not be transactional — the idea is not to spend time only with people who you believe can help you. Rather, consider the long-term value of building a mutually-beneficial relationship.

Always be on the lookout for ways to help others, not because there is the expectation of reciprocity, but because being useful and generous builds social capital by making you valuable and memorable.

As you shrink your inner circle, see yourself as the architect of your environment. As you forge deeper, making more authentic relationships with smaller numbers of people who are genuinely important to you, you will gain more context into their wants and needs, and they will likewise develop a fuller understanding of yourself.

That will give you a stronger foundation on which to build a larger community that benefits from knowing you and your inner circle.

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