The short answer? Yes.
Who you know has a great impact on your success. This sentiment is wrapped up in soundbites such as
- "It's not what you know, it's who you know."
- "You're the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time."
- "Personal relationships are the key to good business."
And so on and so forth.
So in short, yes, it matters who you know.
The long answer?
Your Success Depends on More Than Just Who You Know
To a degree, your success depends on who you know. Beyond a casual acquaintance, there are factors that have a greater impact on your overall success.
1. It's who knows you
It's not good enough to just know somebody. As Edward Tomilloso of The Rising Networker points out,
We have all heard of Donald Trump right? Well if you have, [y]ou know him! The whole business community knows him, and that’s one of the main reasons he has become the titan of his industry. (Source)
This doesn't mean that we can just phone Trump and ask him for business advice. That's silly.
On the other hand, let's say you do know Donald Trump. And he knows you. By all means, then, call him up and grab a drink!
The key here is to form a reciprocal relationship in which you and the other person know each other. Or, in the very least, are open to getting to know each other.
2. It's who who you know knows
This is easily my favorite nuance to the whole "who you know" concept.
In Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life, author Albert-László Barabási cites sociologist Mark Granovetter's The Strength of Weak Ties to make the case for—you guessed it—the importance of weak ties.
In [Granovetter's] view society is structured into highly connected clusters, or close-knit circles of friends, in which everybody knows everybody else. A few external links connecting these clusters keep them from being isolated ... To get new information, we have to activate our weak ties. Indeed, managerial workers are more likely to hear about a job opening through weak ties ... than through strong ties ...
Or, you can only network so much with the people you know. Who they know has a much greater impact on your success.
3. It's how you're perceived
If you become known as all-take-and-no-give, or needy, or desperate, or inauthentic, or ungrateful, or pushy, or some other less-than-desirable-quality kind of person, then the people who know you and the people who who you know knows aren't going to be inclined to help you.
Being a generally positive, generous, confident, value-creating, authentic, grateful, etc. person, on the other hand, makes you the kind of person that people want to know.
This doesn't mean you must be Merry Sunshine all the time, or a boot-licking sycophant, or even everyone's friend. You just have to be a generally likable person with positive qualities. (Which you are. Because you're reading this. Go you!)
So how do you build your network and achieve wild success in an authentic and value-based way?
Try the Reach Out Initiative.
The Reach Out Initiative is a free five-day challenge to make new connections and reinforce the ones you already have.
It was inspired by this Forbes article about Molly Ford Beck's strategy of one Reach Out at a time. Every day, Beck reaches out to someone to compliment them, connect them to someone else, or to converse with them, amongst others. She claims that after doing this every day for eight years, she's "met and/or strengthened connections with hundreds of people."
How The ROI Works
Starting on April 25, 2016, you'll receive the day's lesson in your inbox. Each day has a theme, such a Coffee with a Colleague or Ballers and Big-Shots, and comes with suggestions, scripts, and contact methods for each theme.
How to Get Started
To get started with the ROI, follow these simple steps:
1. Sign up to receive emails
Enter your name and email address in the fields below to receive daily ROI emails. (You'll also receive regular weekly emails from me, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. You'll still receive your lessons until you opt out of them.)
2. Confirm that you're in for a week of network-building
We fully believe in being fully committed—and if you say yes twice, we know you're serious. When you confirm, you'll also receive immediate access to our exclusive Reach Out guide "Nine DOs and DON'Ts for Reaching Out."
3. Reach out to someone who you think will like this challenge
If you have a friend or colleague that you think is up for the challenge, send them this post. I encourage you to use a personal touch, such as a phone call, email, or DM, to start stretching your reaching-out muscles.
4. Post to your networks
Put it on Facebook or tweet it out, the choice is yours. However you choose to share, harness the power of your strong ties to begin forming new weak ones for yourself.
Again, you can get started by entering your name and email address here: