Kev’s Links, June 2015

I read and find a lot of cool stuff online and usually don't save it anywhere. Inspired by my friend Nick Eubanks, I decided to change that and compile everything each month and share it on the blog.

If this type of stuff is interesting to you, I also email it out to readers as soon as it's up for the month, so hop on the email list and you'll get it right in your inbox.​


"It's Who We Were"


Everything that someone does is a reflection of what they think in some way, shape, or form. The way you treat yourself - and this applies to everybody - is very much a reflection of what you think about yourself.

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Beginner's mind doesn't mean negating experience; it means keeping an open mind on how to apply our experience to each new circumstance.

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He respects people, so people feel free to investigate ideas. This is divorcing a person's ideas from their personal identity and is so important for emotionally healthy people and allows people to fail without failure being attached to their identity.

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Knowledge is only potential power. Knowledge is power only when put to use - and then only when the use made of it is constructive.

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He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

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Missing Link Found Between Brain and Immune System - Major Disease Implications

Lost Posture: Why Some Indigenous Cultures May Not Have Back Pain

Mystery Man Moving Japan Made More Than 1 Million Trades

Notable Excerpt: "Instead, he keeps his ears open in chat rooms and his eyes glued to bid-ask screens, on which he monitors the market’s appetite for its 300 most heavily traded stocks. If there’s one basic principle, he says—repeatedly and slowly, as if instructing a child—it is this: “Buy stocks that are being bought, and sell stocks that are being sold.”



Content, And Its Container

The Top 5 Reasons To Be A Jack Of All Trades​

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Book Notes – Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success

Smartcuts reads like a Malcolm Gladwell book - it seeks to explain fundamental principles by curating stories of people who exemplify them in real life. And it does a damn good job at that, even if it is a little bit formulaic in how the information gets conveyed.

But it's a non-fiction book aimed at getting ideas from one place to another efficiently - and that it does very, very well.

What This Book Is About:

Smartcuts aims to codify how and why some individuals rise to levels of success across all different fields quicker and more efficiently than anyone else in their field.

It does this by building a framework that rests on 3 fundamental strategies, along with three tactics to achieve each strategy.

Let's get into it.​


The author, Shane Snow puts forth the following question: "How do they get there so fast?" He introduces a few examples of people who have achieved massive, rapid success in their industries - Pierre Omidyar of eBay, Andrew Mason of Groupon - and wonders how they were able to achieve so much in such a small amount of time.

​He defines a smartcut as wholly separate from the concept of a shortcut. A shortcut gets you somewhere quicker, usually to your detriment in the long term. A smartcut sidesteps a traditional pathway, putting you in a better position in the long-term and the short-term.

But how can you find and execute smartcuts?  Shane says they can be bucketed into three categories:


These are smartcuts that drastically reduce the time that it takes to get somewhere as opposed to following what is considered the traditional route.


These are smartcuts that allow you to massively increase your output by shifting or thinking about your inputs in a different way.


These smartcuts allow you to continue growing and succeeding once you have some amount of momentum to play with.

Part I - Shorten​

Hacking The Ladder

The traditional path to success isn't as reliable as it once was. Time and time again, people are skipping rungs on the ladder...or building a rocket ship and flying their way to the top by following a completely counter-intuitive ​path that gets them where they want to be - faster.

Instead of trying to figure out how to climb the ladder faster, figure out how to skip rungs completely.​  See how you can invent your own ladder to get where you want to go by subverting the standard expectations and pathways.

One way to do this is to use the Sinatra Principle: borrow credibility from other industries or pursuits when you're attempting to climb a ladder in a new field.


  • Eisenhower led the US to victory against Hitler, but hadn't ever held an elected office when he won by a landslide
  • Reagan was a famous actor before making the switch to politics, borrowing credibility from a seemingly unrelated field
  • Lincoln built a new political party and had the humility to put the good of the whole in front of his own ambitions

Interesting Stories:

  • BYU students playing game called Bigger or Better - trading up from pennies to things worth hundreds of dollars in a small number of trades

Training With Masters

​Mentorship remains one of the best ways to rapidly accelerate your path to success. However, traditional mentorship doesn't work very well. In fact, the more structured and regimented a mentorship program, the less correlated it is with actual results.

So, what actually works? Organic mentorship that 'just happens.' But it doesn't actually 'just happen', it can be strategically sought with some creative tactics.

Before we talk about that, what if there are absolutely no people willing to help you out in your field? Well, learn from the greats. We have the internet, YouTube, and endless information at our fingertips. In most fields, you'll be able to soak up the knowledge of the masters...for free.​

Often times you want to seek mentors in different fields that have overlaps.  If there's a skill that would unlock a success gate in your life, find someone in an unrelated industry who has mastered it and seek their advice. This way you'll get targeted help on just that specific skillset, instead of your entire career path.​


  • Jimmy Fallon didn't have real mentors, so he modeled the great comedians and hustled year after year, gleaning tidbits from his pseudo-mentors

Interesting Stories:​

  • A team of surgeons learned how to reduce deaths resulting from mistakes made during handovers from the Ferrari pit team
  • Louis C.K. emulated Carlin and transformed his comedy career by telling raw, vulnerable stories about his own failings

Rapid Feedback​

Turning your work into short-lived, small experiments can massively accelerate your growth.  The shorter and more honest the feedback cycle becomes, the faster you can make incremental adjustments to your approach, process, and skills - and thus the faster you can grow.

James Clear has a great article on marginal gains that explains this quite well.​ He doesn't talk about the feedback loop element though, which I think is key.


  • Upworthy used a rapid feedback loop to constantly test headlines for their uplifting viral news site and were able to drastically increase their metrics in a very short period of time
  • The Second City impromptu comedy group gets fast feedback after their shows on new material, trying and failing at a ton of jokes immediately after a successful show

Part II - Leverage​


Don't reinvent things that are already working well. Instead, leverage them and build on top of them. They're existing platforms that were built by those before you - use their hard work to accelerate your own results.

In education, Freeman Dyson (one of the world's foremost mathematicians) advocated for use of calculators and an abolishment of multiplication tables because it would make kids much more likely to accept and engage in mathematics.  This would allow them to actually get to a point where they could build on their knowledge instead of never even trying in math.

One way to do this in your field is to move up as soon as you have the minimum qualifications. Instead of perfecting your work at a certain level, move up and make yourself the worst person in the room once again. You'll continue to struggle, but will be learning much more, much faster.​


  • David Heinemeier Hanson, the programmer who created Ruby on Rails hacked his way up the racing circuit by leveraging platforms
  • He created Ruby on Rails from Ruby, essentially eliminating the repetitive, unnecessary work of coding new applications in Ruby


  • "Get the thinking right and the skills come largely for free." 
  • "In an age of platforms, creative problem solving is more valuable than computational skill."


Spotting cultural waves early and going all in on them will put you at the forefront of the wave and immediately position you as a leader in the space.

In order to catch waves, the obvious metaphor is surfing. You can either paddle harder, faster, and longer, or you can just get better at pattern recognition and be in the right place far ahead of time. While both methods work, ideally you are aiming to do the latter.

After all, this book is called Smartcuts.​

While you can brute-force pattern recognition in many fields (think relentlessly practicing free throws), you can also study the patterns and markers without putting in the amssive amount of practice and do almost as well.

However, to catch a wave, you still need to be in the water. You can be the best surfer on Earth, but if you aren't in the water, you'll still miss the wave.​


  • Sonny Moore (now known as Skrillex) rode two waves that collided at the same time: social media and screamo / emo music
  • First movers in business often don't have the advantage - they are outpaced by those who ride the wave immediately after them and avoid every dumb mistake that the first movers made while charting the course


Which is easier: making friends with a thousand people one by one or making friends with someone who already has a thousand friends? The answer is obvious.

Attaching your horse to superconnectors and figuring out ways that you can help them can massively accelerate your climb to the top. However, if you're only in it for your own success, chances are high you'll falter along the way.

Studies show that those who give as much as possible - even when they reach superconnector status themselves - are the ones that typically end up at the top of the food chain​.


  • JJ Abrams helped out superconnectors on his rise to the top of the film world, but continues to give even though he's got everything he ever wanted - this 'giver' mentality is a marker of the successful
  • Castro used radio to empower and educate the poor peasants of Cuba. Without it, him and Che Guevara wouldn't have come close to overthrowing the oppressive regime of Batista
  • Aaron Patzer of Mint built the business by creating an financial education blog and helping financial bloggers by feeding them great content for their own audiences

Part III - Soar​


When you have an inflection point in your growth, you want to make sure that you don't squander it. Too many times people hit a massive growth multiplier but don't know what to do with the momentum they've just built.

​Having a 'reservoir' of work that people can look at once you've been discovered will help capture as much attention as possible when you do finally get a big break.

If you take two companies that have the same revenue for the year, but the second one had half as much the year before, most investors are going to value the ​second one higher - because they have more forward momentum.

Build up potential energy so that unexpected opportunities - ​Black Swan events - can be capitalized on. Since you never know when they are going to happen, always work to build up your potential energy.


  • The "Double Rainbow" guy and Michelle Phan both had videos that got 38 million views on YouTube in the same summer, yet DR guy went nowhere while Michelle Phan built a media empire
  • Oreo's famous Superbowl tweet was retweeted 35,000 times - about .03% of the total audience watching the Superbowl. But the resulting media coverage sent about 500 million earned media impressions their way.


By simplifying the problem that you are trying to solve, you can often make breakthroughs that other people miss because they're buried in the minutiae and complexity of the problem.  Often times the best improvers and inventors are the ones who can relentlessly focus on the smallest number of things that matter.

Constraints help - look at jokes. "Say something funny" vs. "Tell me a knock-knock" joke want the same result - a laugh - but one is much easier to answer than the other.​


  • Jane Chen created a baby incubator for $25 - 1000x cheaper than a traditional one. She's saved the lives of 40,000 babies to date
  • Brian Lam created The Wirecutter, a review site that just tells you the best product in each category and sends you to Amazon

10x Thinking​

Often times, it's easier to improve something by 1000% than by 10% - or at least there is a clearer path to do so. 

It's also easier to sell yourself and your team on 10x thinking rather than incremental. People will 'buy in' to lofty missions and goals rather than intensely focused, marginal gains.

In the 1800s, 10% style thinking was breeding faster horses. 10x thinking was reasoning from first principles. Horses are there for forward movement - what other technologies could be used to create forward movement? The combustion engine - and voila, the car was born.​


  • Musk is the best example - he thinks far bigger than most people and reasons from first principles to get himself and his team to the desired result
  • Google X is a secret lab run by Google that calls itself a "moonshot factory" - companies in the program all aim for 10x improvements instead of incremental

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Book Notes – Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

The last thing I want to do is be one of those people that writes about self-help books. But I'm going to write about this one, because it ties a ton of important concepts together. So I guess I'll have to deal with the fact that I'm one of those guys that writes about self help books - at least this once.

But I'll try to do it in a way that makes it not unbearable to read.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is a solid book - if you pay attention to what it's saying and try to adopt the mentalities that it outlines.

What is Essentialism?

Getting only the right things done. Ignoring what is non-essential and focusing on the things that matter the most for the results that you want to achieve.

It's not really a 'productivity system' or a 'life hack'.  It's just a lens to view action through, one that aims to remove the actions that don't matter that much and spend more time on the actions that matter a lot.

After outlining what Essentialism is, the rest of the book goes into a bunch of different ways to figure out what actually matters.​

This book's biggest strength is the way that it ties together a bunch of different elements that have all had their own books written about them into something that makes a lot of sense. It's the front cover to the puzzle box - with it, you can start to tie together a lot of the puzzle pieces that you may have read elsewhere or figured out on your own.​

The Basic Framework​

  • ​Figure out what your essential activities are
  • Figure out how to cut out the non-essential activities
  • Figure out how to make executing the essential activities as smooth as possible

Part 1 - Essence


This chapter is about the power of a decision.  Not a half-assed decision like "I'm going to try to run three times a week!!!", but a decision like, "I am never going to smoke another cigarette in my fucking life. I am NOT a smoker."

Decisions help you out in one major way: they cut off other paths of action for good. Let's say you're wondering how to build your brand on Instagram.  The simple fact that you decided on Instagram immediately means that you're not going to focus your efforts on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social platform - you've cut them out of your decision tree.

The power of making a conscious choice is a critical step to thinking like an Essentialist.

Will Smith understands the power of choice very well. Aside from some of the ethereal nonsense about "The Universe," what he has to say here is spot on:​


The main point of this chapter is that you need to look at the actions you're taking to get to a goal and figure out which ones don't matter.  Sounds simple, but people trick themselves into thinking that a lot of unimportant things matter all of the time.

Take business for example. I can't tell you how many times I meet people that want to get started in a business or start making even a little income on the side, and their first thought is that they'll need a website, some business cards, or to start networking with people.

When I mention that they should probably focus on ​finding someone who will exchange money for their product or service, it's usually met with indignation.  I don't say it to be a dick, or to lecture...I only say it because they're doing exactly what I did when I quit playing online poker and tried to start a business. And it was a complete and utter waste of my time.

Discerning what actions will truly drive you towards your goal usually requires you to think a few levels deeper about what the goal actually is, then working forwards from there. At Book in a Box, we call this reasoning from first principles.


An important question to ask yourself is, "Which problem would I rather have?"  This is the lesson of the trade-off.

You hear stories about high-powered  businessmen that have sacrificed their health or their families in order to hit their level of career success. Or people who have busked on the streets for years before breaking into super-stardom in the music industry.

These are extreme examples of trade-offs. It's clear that they've sacrificed heavily in one (or more) areas of their life to achieve something great in another area.

Ask yourself, "Which problem would I rather have?" when you're making a decision on what is essential and what is not. If growing your career is your focus, are you OK having worse health than you could? Or spending a little less time with family? Then flip the scenario and ask yourself the same questions.​

Part II - Explore


This chapter is all about getting away from things that pull you away from essential actions.  I have a friend that I met in Brazil who was building out his business, but also liked going out at night to clubs and bars...a lot.

His phone would be buzzing all day long with invites, texts from girls, or just general nonsense and he found it extremely hard to focus. Add that to the litany of online distractions and it was a non-starter for him.

Then he decided to put his phone into airplane mode from 9am-5pm.​

This was a complete game changer for him. While he couldn't escape the nightlife scene (nor did he want to), he could temporarily remove himself from it by blocking everything that could distract him.


This is a big one. Spending time with friends, doing activities that don't relate to your SUPER IMPORTANT LIFE GOALS THAT YOU MUST ACHIEVE, and generally just messing around and having a good time is super important.

Just don't get into the weird mindset of scheduling time to play because it will help you optimize your life and maximize productivity. It's called play for a reason. You do it to have fun.

Remember being in 3rd grade and messing around with friends during the summer? That's the feeling you're going for here.


There are some things that we know are essential...we just don't seem to care enough to prioritize them in our lives. 

My cousin is a prime example of this. He's running a tech startup up in San Francisco and lives in SoMa in a three bedroom place. He has the loft bedroom, meaning it's not enclosed.

He gets woken up by the sun as soon as it's up, or manages to stay asleep a little longer in a sunlit room. After years of running on low sleep and feeling not 100% there, he built a weird bed-tent hybrid based off of some picture he saw on Pinterest.

It allows him to sleep in complete, pitch-black darkness until his alarm goes off.  

After just a week of sleeping in his bed-tent creation, his energy levels have never been higher and he's feeling like he's mentally 'there' again.

Bottom line: protect the asset. Sleep is a massive force multiplier on your waking hours, so it's one of the most essential activities you'll ever 'do'. So do it right.​


Part III - Eliminate


Spend time up front to figure out exactly what you want to achieve. Drill down to the absolute heart of the matter and gain as much clarity as possible.

A fitness example: wanting to 'get in better shape' isn't a clear goal. Neither is 'get a six pack', although it's a bit closer.

I'll share my fitness goals for Q2 of 2015:

  • ​Sub 12% bodyfat
  • 15 strict pullups in a row
  • 300lb deadlift
  • 225lb squat
  • 200lb bench

Those are very clear goals that I will know if I hit or not by the end of this quarter.  Having goals this clear also makes it very easy to figure out what actions I should take to accomplish them.

Clear goals help you remove hundreds of future decisions by virtue of their clarity.


This chapter was a big one for me. It's about learning how to say no to things that aren't essential to you.  If you're someone who likes to be happy and make the people around you happy, you've probably got an issue with this as well.

In fact, I have a friend that's building her design business out right now that's running into this issue. She closed down her design agency and is setting up shop selling assets like resume templates, video introductions, and backgrounds but running into issues spending time on her work.

Not only is she having a hard time focusing on essential activities because she doesn't know what they ARE, she's over-committed to too many social events and causes which fragments her focus into a million little pieces.

Learn to say 'no' in a firm but respectful way.​


Don't get distracted by sunk costs.  Spending a lot of time and money on something doesn't make it an inherently essential activity.

Seth Godin goes over this concept far better than I ever could in his book The Dip, so you should probably just buy it and read it (it's quick) if you want to know more about this chapter.​


Limit the scope of your activity to breed creativity and inspire yourself to act.

When I work with my clients on marketing projects, the first few meetings are all about figuring out what we are not going to focus on. In other words, I'm limiting the scope of the project to only the things that I think are essential and going from there.

That forces​ me to be more creative with my solutions to their problems and not get into overwhelm when thinking about all of the potential ways to help them out.

Part IV - Execute


Figuring out what to remove from your life is just as important as figuring out what to add.

Tim Ferriss' "Not To Do" list is a great example of ​a list of activities that - when they are NOT done - result in a massive increase in productivity.


James Clear writes about this one pretty well in his post about marginal gains.  The main point is this:

If you make small, incremental gains on a daily basis, pretty soon they will multiply on each other and you'll see incredible improvement.

If you're confused about this, ​look up compound returns in investing, which Einstein called "the eighth wonder of the world."


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi​, a man who has made it his life's mission to have the least user-friendly name on Earth, wrote a very good book that expands on this entire chapter. So read that book if this interests you.

The basic principle here is that you should look to create routines that allow you not to think about things that are repeatable. Like your morning routine. Or what you eat for breakfast. Unless you highly value variety in your diet or are a chef, you can make your life a hell of a lot easier by just eating the same breakfast every day.

What does this do for you? It frees up that mental energy to focus on things that are more important.​


​Figuring out what the most important action is in the moment can be hard to do.  Focusing on that action once it's figured out can be even harder.

In a pattern that is becoming quite clear, someone has already written more about this chapter than I could possible write myself.  The guys at Asian Efficiency wrote a solid article on how to focus on one thing long enough to get it done that I refer to often when I'm feeling out of it.


Hopefully you got something out of this post, even if it was just one tidbit from one of the chapters.  If the general concept of this book seems interesting, it's definitely worth a read.

Pick up a copy and crush it over a weekend or a long flight. Then make an effort to actually adopt some of these mental models in your life and you'll be well on your way to a more essential outlook on things.​

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A Fundamental Way To Analyze a Conversation’s Quality

Yesterday I was at my good friend Mike’s place with some friends, grilling food and getting to know some people that I hadn’t had the chance to talk to much. After the party winded down, while sipping on an “Ultimate Hazelnut” coffee that I would call more “Modest” than “Ultimate,” Mike and I got into some heavy discussion on what makes a great conversation.  We tend to break things down that most people wouldn’t, which can be good and bad.

Breaking down conversation? Helpful. Our long conversation about exactly what qualities make a “rad girl?” Not so productive.

We ended up coming up with a rough way to quantify the quality of a conversation.

The impetus behind this conversation was composed of two things:

  1. The value we place on good conversation
  2. Our experiences in the dating world over the past few months

There had to be a way to judge the quality of the conversation without being clouded by the other factors that go into attractiveness (looks, athleticism, style, intellect, etc).  Let’s be honest – it’s not hard to get distracted by other factors and conveniently forget that the conversation was less than stellar.

Here is what we came up with. There are 4 main metrics, ranging from most to least important as well as a few bonus metrics.

Warning: This is super-nerdy.

Unique Conversation Capacity (UCC)

Your UCC is the most important metric. How capable are both of you at creating a conversation that is truly unique? One that plays off of both of your histories, talents, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as the shared history between the two of you? We’ve both been on dates where answers seemed predictable and the entire conversation could have been had by two other people – which isn’t what we’re looking for, and I’d hope not what you’re looking for either.

Measurement: A high UCC demonstrates the overall ability to craft a conversation that is truly unique. A low UCC means that the conversation skimmed the surface and doesn’t stick in your brain as memorable.

Topic Range (Low to High)

Conversations are made up of topics. Whether you’re having a conversation about one main topic and its various sub-topics, or you’re conversing about a wide range of topics (typical in the first date realm), topics are the bedrock of conversation.

Topics can range from low depth to high depth. On the lowest end you have chatting about something like the recent weather or local events. On the highest end you have talking about the arts, your core values, and the deeper experiences in your life. Notice how I used ‘chatting’ for the low-depth topics – it’s surface level.

MeasurementA person’s range is their ability to talk across the full range of depth – if they can handle themselves in small talk all the way through to the deeper, more insightful realms of conversation.

Exchanges Per Topic (EPT)

Within a topic, there is a back and forth – the natural flow of conversation. This can vary based on who brought up or transitioned to the topic at hand – people have different levels of knowledge about different things, so sometimes it’s natural for there to be few exchanges. If you’re sharing your gardening expertise with someone, it’s normal for there to be fewer exchanges as you’re sharing your knowledge and they’re taking the more passive role.

However, for the most part the ideal exchanges per topic are very high, indicating high levels of engagement between the two of you and a really good ‘ping pong’ effect.

Measurement: How many times did the conversation bounce back and forth during the topic? Was it unequal or balanced? If it was unequal, was it because one person was sharing more, or due to shyness or lack of confidence?

Exchange Chunks

Exchanges within a topic can be grouped into chunks, like this:

Topic: Travel

You: Initiate and talk about trip to Brazil

5 exchanges

Them: Talk about their experience traveling in Europe post graduation

7 exchanges

You: Share where you would like to travel next

6 exchanges

This goes on and on until someone changes the topic.

Who Was The Driver?

In the example above you have the topic of travel with three exchange chunks, two of which you drove. That means you were the ‘driver’ of 66% of that topic’s conversation – you started more of the exchange chunks.

Extrapolating that out to the entirety of the conversation, if you sum up the exchange chunks that you drove over the course of the whole conversation, you’ll get a pretty good picture of who had ‘the upper hand’ in the conversation and was playing the leading role.

Putting it all Together

Now that we have the four metrics, let’s take a look at the following description:

I went out on a date with a girl, we’ll call her Jane. We got to know each other, talked about what we did for work, where we grew up, and then went a little deeper into some goals that we have and values we believe in. For the most part it was pretty balanced – in fact, she even picked up the conversation when I intentionally let it die. We talked for two hours straight while playing pool over a bunch of different topics. I feel like I got to know her pretty well, but I would say it was an above average date, not a home run.

Putting that description into our system, I might say something like this:

Jane had a medium-high Unique Conversation Capacity and was able to talk through the full range of topic depth. The exchanges per topic were high and we both drove the conversation at a fairly equal rate.

Going full nerd you have:

Medium high UCC with full range. EPT high, 50/50 drivers.

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Networking is BS. Be Interesting Instead

A few days ago I was at Launch Festival in San Francisco, hanging out around the Product Hunt AMA stage. I was with a friend speaking on that stage later in the day. This friend is a guy that is legitimately famous, which means a certain group of people either idolize him or really look up to him.

Naturally, famous people get approached all of the time, especially if they're hanging around in a place where a lot of their 'fans' are - and Launch Festival was one of these places.

We were sitting on a couch drinking some non-GMO, gluten-free, watermelon-flavored water - yes, those words were actually printed on a bottle of water - and a guy walks up to us from the side:

Random Guy: "_____? You're _____, right? I've been following you for years!"

They talked about business for a minute or two before the guy asked my friend for a picture, saying, "You're idol, man."

I grabbed the guy's phone and snapped a couple of pictures of the two of them, and we sat back down.

After about ten more minutes of slightly awkward and forced conversation, another guy sat down on the couch next to us and introduced himself to my friend. Here's how he did it:

"Your name is _____, right? I'm Matt, I think we're speaking together."

My friend turned to him and they started to engage in a natural conversation.

Guess what happened?

Matt and my friend talked up until they both went on stage to speak. After they were done, they hung out for the rest of the day at Launch Festival, introduced each other to more interesting people, and ended up partying together the next night.

So what happened here? Why did one guy succeed at 'networking' and the other fail? There are a lot of factors at play - some controllable, some not. As the fly on the wall in the situation, I'll try to break down what I think happened and what I learned from the interactions.

Random Guy

  • Could not explain in clear, concise words what he did in under 15 seconds
  • His main reason for approaching my friend was out of idolization and hero-worship
  • He mentioned he wanted to work together or 'help out', without a clear idea of what he could contribute when asked
  • He 'over-laughed' at statements my friend made that weren't intended to be funny
  • Responded to a lot of my friend's statements with "that's cool / that's amazing", which doesn't give my friend much to go on conversationally
  • Is objectively not an equal in status and knows it, but makes it painfully obvious by signalling in very obvious ways


  • Introduced himself quickly, with a clear reason for why he was talking to my friend
  • Didn't signal lower status or idolization verbally or with body language
  • May have known exactly who my friend was, but introduced himself in a neutral way
  • Conversation was give and take, not question and pitch

The uncontrollable factors here are that the random guy is simply lower status than Matt, so is starting from a worse position than Matt.  Random guy can't fix his objective status while in conversation, but he could have shifted the conversation and his approach in a way that allowed him to talk to my friend on a level playing field.

The controllable factors are all of the verbal and body language signals that the random guy gave off to make it clear that he thought of himself as lower status, and thus approached my friend in a different way.

Conversationally, he could have shifted the topic to something that both he and my friend knew the same amount of information about - something where the playing field is level.​

He idolized my friend in business, but maybe they had a common hobby that overlapped.  If he happened to have more value to give about this hobby, all of a sudden he'd be contributing something to my friend rather than constantly taking away.

This would raise his perceived status for the interaction and make it much more likely that the context switches from "fan/hero" to "friend/friend", or at least gets him closer to the type of interaction that Matt had with my friend.​

You're either a giver, taker, neutral, or a mirror.  When trying to meet interesting people, try to be interesting, give value, and act like a friend - that's really the only guiding principle ​behind successful networking you need to follow.

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