A famous African proverb states, “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” This proverb captures how important relationships are to getting things done. Relationships are at the core of all the activities that bring value to our work and our lives. Many times, relationships overlap in both areas. A colleague becomes a friend or a friend becomes a professional mentor. When we observe relationships integrating seamlessly between our work and our personal lives we have the opportunity to more effectively leverage the unlimited value that relationships offer in multiple areas of our lives.
As humans, we love to put everything into categories, yet relationships provide more value when they can remain fluid, flowing in and out of different areas of our lives. For example, today, I had breakfast with a guy who used to be my competitor. He’s now a friend, neighbor, and a client. He’s also given me valuable coaching on various aspects of my personal life. We are both one another’s customers. If I thought of my work and personal life as separate categories, I would have trouble figuring out which bucket to put him in. Would he be considered a customer or client? Or maybe I should view him as a friend and neighbor? Attempting to categorize our relationship into one of these buckets would actually limit the rich experience and expertise we bring to one another’s lives. Our relationship overlaps seamlessly in both professional and personal ways, which brings tremendous value to us in both areas.
Likewise, non-work settings can also be a source for cultivating valuable professional relationships. I attend bible study with a guy who happens to be the president of one of the largest private land holding companies in the country. As someone who curious about the trend of converting biomass into fuel, I immediately thought about my bible-study friend. Thanks to his expertise and experience in the land business, I bet he could offer insight into how to approach investing in this new technology. Again, if I siloed my friend into merely a Church friend, I would have missed out on the opportunity for us both to connect and benefit in a professional capacity. Chances are, you too belong to communities, groups, or participate in activities that offer many symbiotic friendships in both work and life.
The lesson here is that each person we meet in any setting, whether it be work or personal, provides us with the opportunity to add and take value regardless of whether we have clocked in or not.