David Burkus (@davidburkus) is a sought after speaker, business school professor, regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, and author of Friend of a Friend…: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career.
What We Discuss with David Burkus:
- How we can grow our networks based on the science of human behavior, not rote networking advice.
- How to take advantage of our existing network’s weak and dormant ties.
- What it means to be a structural hole-filling broker of ultimate value to our entire network.
- How to become a superconnector.
- Using the illusion of the majority to our advantage.
- And much more…
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Networking can feel like a dirty job when you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. But it can truly be a delight when you can use your network not only to help yourself, but to help the network as a whole. Superconnectors and brokers understand this better than anyone.
Joining us for this episode is David Burkus, business school professor and author of Friend of a Friend…: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career. He explains how networking operates from a social scientist’s perspective, so if you thought you knew everything there is to know about connecting with others, you’re in for a new kind of ride. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
In spite of how crucial networking is to our success, many cringe at the very mention of the word. It can conjure the image of a smarmy grifter in a cheap suit trying to spread his business cards across the floor of the convention center like a pandemic of the grodiest cooties ever imagined.
Or it can remind us of our own insecurities and leave us bristling at the idea of going out to meet strangers in a way that doesn’t seem far removed from sales — but we’re selling ourselves, rendering possible rejection all the more personal.
Thanks to the diligence of business school professor David Burkus, author of Friend of a Friend…: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career, we may never have to go to a networking event ever again.
It doesn’t get us off the hook entirely — we still need to network. But David offers us the tools we need to make the process as painless as possible — and even more effective — because he’ll show us how we can grow our networks based on the science of human behavior, not rote networking advice.
Finding Strength in Dormant and Weak Ties
We’re constantly networking in order to make new connections in our network. But what if we’re neglecting the connections we already have — people we’re not seeing or understanding the importance of — in a network that’s hidden to us?
David lays out two connections in such a network:
- A weak tie: A person you know, but not that well.
- A dormant tie: A person who may have once been a strong connection, but for whatever reason, the relationship has fallen by the wayside.
While we’re more likely to consult our more visible network for advice, referrals, and new perspectives, David says it’s these weak and dormant ties in our hidden network that are more likely to give us better results.
“The primary value of any network is information,” says David, “and when all of your information is coming from people that are taking their cues off of each other, they’re all reading the same things, they’re all having the same reactions, you’re missing out on a lot of information that you need.”
“The people that are closest to you can’t really help all that much because they see the world the same way you do; they have access to the same information that you have,” says David. “And even though those weak or dormant ties might be less motivated to help, they have more original information that can help you.”
In order to reconnect with these weak and dormant ties, David recommends using the information they’re already posting on social media (it’s rare that someone doesn’t use some form of social media these days) and rather than commenting directly in that network, you should take the time to email, text, or even call them referencing something there that caught your attention.
Maintaining a Network Takes Effort
Another complaint people have about networking is it feels fake to them. They reason that relationships should be natural and organic, and interacting with someone for the sake of your network strikes them as inauthentic. David has a remedy for this.
“Scroll through your contacts,” says David. “You land on a name that you know, ‘Oh, it’s been a while since I talked to them.’ Don’t send them an email right then; just move them from the back of your mind to the front of your mind over the next day or two. I guarantee you will find something — a news article, a tweetable blurb, a sound bite, a thing you saw on a TV show — you’ll eventually find some reason to reach out to them in the next couple of days, and there you go. You’ve got your reconnection.”
Keeping track of connections can also be done through a contact management system like Contactually, which notifies you when a close tie is becoming dormant or you haven’t taken action to strengthen a weak tie.
Become a Broker by Filling Structural Holes
People’s relationships tend to cluster for different reasons: career, field of study, political ideology, gender, and so on. Over time, gaps form between these clusters — what sociologist Ronald S. Burt calls structural holes. In a network, this has the same effect we saw with stronger ties in relation to weak and dormant ties: people within those clusters share the same perspectives, and are blind to insight other clusters might offer.
“It turns out that the people who unlock the most value for everybody — including the most value for themselves — are the people that find a way to tie those two communities together,” says David.
In order to become a broker who can bridge these clusters and fill structural holes, we need to be deeply embedded in at least one of the communities.
“I wish I could tell you there was some sort of super deliberate way that you could just pick two communities and insist on getting them together,” says David, “but the truth is you sort of have to look at ‘Who am I already connected to?’ and how can you use that person as a referral to this other community that [you] can then start to get to know. And then you find ways to connect them and then you find the ways to provide value to them.”
Some people have a disproportionate number of contacts in relation to others. There could be many variables at play as to why this happens, but one of the easiest reasons could simply be that new people entering a networking space will automatically be introduced to the person within that space who is known to have the most connections.
These people are called superconnectors.
If we want to become superconnectors ourselves, how can we do it when our networking space is already filled with them?
“This is the good news and the bad news of superconnectors,” says David. “The bad news is that if people feel like it’s coming naturally to other people, that’s true and other people do have an advantage. The good news is that if you put in the work, it gets easier over time.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how long it took Jordan to become a superconnector (which may indicate he’s actually just really bad at networking after all), how a network begins to naturally reciprocate the effort a superconnector puts into it (because the superconnector helps the entire network and not just him or herself), the illusion of the majority, and lots more.
THANKS, DAVID BURKUS!
If you enjoyed this session with David Burkus, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Friend of a Friend…: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career by David Burkus
- David Burkus’ Website
- David Burkus at Facebook
- David Burkus at Twitter
- David Burkus at Instagram
- The Network Structure of Social Capital by Ronald S. Burt, Research in Organizational Behavior
- The Strength of Weak Ties by Mark S. Granovetter, American Journal of Sociology
- How Did Dana White Get Involved in the UFC?, Quora
- Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
- The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life, Jane McGonigal at TEDGlobal 2012
- SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully by Jane McGonigal
- Can the Internet Buy You More Friends?, Robin Dunbar at TEDx 2012
- Pareto Principle
- How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- A Lesson in Self Promotion with Tim Ferriss, ZURBsoapbox
- Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks by Miller McPherson et al., Annual Review of Sociology
- Gimlet Startup 19: Diversity Report
- TJHS 16: Tali Sharot | Unpacking the Science of the Influential Mind
- Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives — How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler
Transcript for David Burkus | How to Become a Networking Superconnector (Episode 36)
David Burkus: [00:00:00] The problem when most of us when we meet someone is we assume that if they're not immediately useful to me now, then this is a waste of my time. Then we start doing the eyes looking over thing even unintentionally, right? And then we become the very jerk that we hated from the same event. You have a very different question. You are asking in your mind, “Okay, I can't help this person, but who can I connect this person to that could help them with this?” You are taking care of the entirety of the network that's around you and over time the network started taking care of you and bringing those connections to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:31] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan harbinger as always. I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. Welcome to the Brain Trust. On this episode, we're talking with my good friend David Burkus. He is the author of a new book called Friend of a Friend, and I'm in it so you know it's great, but we're discussing network science. We'll discuss how to take advantage of our existing weak and dormant ties, and how we never have to go to a networking event ever again. We'll also explore the concept of becoming a broker and connecting diverse initiatives to place ourselves at the center of our own diverse and highly useful networks. And we'll uncover the concept of the super connector and how we can become one ourselves. Lots of great networking advice in this episode. Lots of practicals in this one as well. There are worksheets for this episode as always in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Enjoy this episode with my friend, David Burkus. David, thanks for coming back on the show, man.
David Burkus: [00:01:23] Dude, no, thank you so much for having me. It's exciting. The last time we did this, we were hanging out in that weird studio in San Francisco.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:30] We were in that studio at the NASDAQ Entrepreneur Center where I didn't tell you that it was going to be on camera, so you wear like a Batman t-shirt.
David Burkus: [00:01:38] I'm pretty sure I had a Batman t-shirt on and a hoodie, which ironically I'm still wearing a superhero shirt and a hoodie, but yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:45] Yeah. Well, it's just sort of says a lot about the kind of guy that you are. We talked a lot about networking back then, but it was kind of, there are some concepts that you had been using but hadn't fully, I don't know what you'd call it, sort of, I don't like using the word digested because it's a little graphic. But it hadn't quite maybe congealed, which is also a graphic term, in the way that they have in the new book, Friend of a Friend, which I'm excited about because I'm in it. But also because there's really good stuff that's in it. That's not just about me.
David Burkus: [00:02:11] Was that like our full disclosure like okay, full disclosure, Jordan Harbinger is a subject in front of a friend because he's awesome. That was our journalistic disclosure.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:19] Right, yeah. I have to say something like that, right? Like, “Oh don't be surprised when you hit chapter six or seven or whatever, and I'm in it.” And also don't be surprised when it says that I am in the art of charm when I'm not anymore. But that's how publishing works. You write something and then multiple years later it comes out and you can hold it.
David Burkus: [00:02:36] And we'll close the loop, right? So that conversation, we were in the NASDAQ Center, which again you didn't tell me it was on camera. But I mean it's a super cool center. So shout out to those guys. Like you said, congealed is a graphic and not the right word. It was really like, that was the beginning of probably two years of being fascinated with network science concepts. Like if you had told me even two years ago like you're going to write a book about networking, I would have been like, you're crazy. Like I'm not that weird slick back guy in the suit who can work a room. But in reality, that was the beginning of me starting to read a lot of these studies and how people connect and interact with each other. And then realizing that there's this huge gap in any of the advice which is, well actually that all of it is advice. Very little of it is based on the actual science of how networks get together, how networks act, interact, et cetera, and so that became Friend of a Friend. So it really kind of started on that. So yeah, I mean it made sense that you're in the book because I owe it to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:31] Well, I appreciate that. And I love the term network science because it sounds better than network-ing especially because you are actually taking some scientific concepts, persuasion, influence, things like that and wrapping them in here. But also a lot of people would be maybe disinterested or shy away from the term networking because of what we were just talking about earlier. Namely, people slip back their hair, throw on a cheap suit, and sling business cards in people's faces. And we talk a lot on the Jordan Harbinger Show about how that's not how it's done and how it's you're supposed to give without the attachment to things in return and the principles of social capital and things like that. But what's in Friend of a Friend, there's some new and novel and cool stuff in there. And one concept that stuck out to me was finding strength in weak ties to tell us about what this means.
David Burkus: [00:04:20] Yeah. So I mean real quick on a top line, I totally agree with you that I think people think that networking is a four letter word, even though it's probably like a 10 letter word. And I think that's because they're associating it with the idea of actively trying to meet strangers and convert them into new contacts. And one of the things that we talk about, I mean, it's in the subtitle of the book is this hidden networks idea, that there are people who are already in your network that you're not seeing or understanding the importance of. And so this idea, weak ties, there's two actual types of ties in this sort of hidden network. Your weak ties and your dormant ties, and they're actually two different things and they're often misunderstood. A weak tie is a person that you sort of know but don't really know that well. Like right now producer, Jason and I are weak ties, right? We might hang out as next road trip but right now we're weak ties. We know each other, we don't know each other that well.
[00:05:07] The other is a dormant tie, which this is someone who was a closer connection to you, which for some reason or another be it that they moved locations or change jobs or you just decided you didn't like what they were posting on Facebook. Like your relationship fell by the wayside. Now what's interesting is that while we tend to, when we have a problem, we need new information, whatever, we tend to broadcast that out to thewhat we think of as our network. But that's usually just our close connections, our closest people and the research and for multiple decades has been strongly indicative that it's the weak ties and especially the dormant ties that are better for giving advice, making referrals, providing you with a different perspective precisely because they're not near you.
[00:05:48] The sociologist Ronald Burt uses this term redundancy, and I think that's a great term to describe what's going on. Most of the time the people that are closest to you, even though they're to help, the people that are closest to you can't really help all that much because they see the world the same way you do. They have access to the same information that that you have and even though those weak or dormant ties might be less motivated to help, they have more original information that can help you. And so that's why we call it this sort of finding strength in weak ties. It's a riff on that one of the first studies, which was called the strength of weak ties. And it really is this over overlooked part of your network. I mean really you don't have to go to those networking mixer events any more. Most people can pick a lot of low hanging fruit just by making it a point to reengage with weakened dormant ties.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:33] Yeah, I love this idea because first of all, I hate networking events and it always goes back to, is it Groucho Marx who said, I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would accept me as a member or something like that, I wouldn’t want to go to any club that would have me as a member. And that's sort of what I feel like with networking events. It's like, “Hey, this is a really great event.” “Oh wait, no, anyone can come here.” And it's not just that networking events are bad in general, it's just that uncurated networking events generally are full of slick back, cheap suit. “Hey, we needed to financial manager, give me a call.” Weak ties is a great place to sort of dig because we all have these, so we don't really need to go into a room full of strangers in order to make this happen.
[00:07:15] We can pick, in my opinion, curated events are the best. You know, the whole sort of mastermind talks type of thing where everything's highly curated. However, you don't need to go to a room at the YMCA where there's stale cookies to quote unquote “network”. You have weak ties all around you. We're just not capitalizing on them. So how do we start capitalizing on these right away? Like what sort of action steps do you have? Are you looking on your Facebook friends list and making a list of people and calling them or what? How does it work?
David Burkus: [00:07:42] So it can be that, in fact, what a lot of people I think don't know, and depending on when you listen to this, they might've changed it because Facebook's probably about to change everything. But if you go to like your friends list on Facebook and you scroll all the way down to the bottom, those are the people you interact with the least, right? And in fact like your news feed is a potent source of these sort of dormant ties. You accepted the friend request like 18 months ago. Now you're annoyed because you don't even really remember that much about them. Like that's a pretty good indicator that this is someone that you neglected too, right? And the biggest thing, this is something you've talked about before on the Jordan Harbinger Show is you want to, what's the Harvey McKay line? Like dig your well before you're thirsty.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:18] Yeah, dig your well before you're thirsty. And I always forget who said it. So it always sounds like I'm saying it or trying to pretend like I said it and everyone's like, yeah, I read that book 20 years ago.
David Burkus: [00:08:26] Yeah, no, no, no, no. One Harvey McKay is always good for a book title. Like all of them are hilarious like that. But yeah, you really do. So you, what you don't want to do again, because you don't want to be that person is you don't want to wait until you need something. Oh no, I need a new job. Oh no, I am moving to a new city and I have no friends there, et cetera. You want to make it a point to sort of develop a system. And there's, there's software and things like that, that they can do it, but I actually use the newsfeed trick, which traces its origins to our original episode, which is we're all mindlessly through that news feed anyway, right? And some people are now we're even using like newsfeed blocker to, to avoid it. But the truth is those situations are people, they're broadcasting what just happened in their life, which is the perfect thing to use as a tool to reach back out to someone, right?
[00:09:11] So it’ll give you a tactic. Like let's say somebody posting on Facebook, somebody you met two years ago, you really didn't keep in touch all that much and they're like, “Hey, we're packed up, we're about to leave tomorrow morning. We're going on a vacation for a week to Maui.” Right? That's awesome, right? And so now you take that and don't click like, don't comment. If you've ever had like a birthday on Facebook or a work anniversary on LinkedIn, you get a sense of like when everybody's commenting, nobody's commenting. You can't tell who's who, right? So don't do that, reach out in a deeper medium. So email, text, message, phone call, whatever it is, acknowledged that you saw what they posted. I mean it's freely available information. “Hey, I just saw that you're headed to vacation for Maui, that's awesome.” “Congratulations, it's a really great place.”
[00:09:53] Next offer something sort of a value by the way, I was there a year ago and I ate at this restaurant. You might want to check it out, if you have a free night, it's fantastic. And then I think close with a very third line, which is when you get back, we should catch up. Or I like to actually just use the simple sentence besides that, what else is new with you? And use that as an engagement into a conversation. I think the primary reason most people don't reengage with weakened dormant ties is that they would feel awkward emailing them out of the blue, right? You can't just say like, I was listening to a podcast and this guy David Burkus has said, I should email you because I haven't talked to you in two years. That's not going to work. But if you're using that regularly available information to, as a springboard for that conversation, that can work really, really effectively, and like you're scrolling through the newsfeed anyways. So we're talking about an extra 90 seconds of work going over from your Facebook app over to your email app or even sending a direct message inside of whatever social network it is. Just don't click like or comment because you're going to get drown out. Use it to go to a deeper, more intimate medium.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:51] Okay. I dig this and the way I've explained this in the past on other shows or shows products where I've talked about this is there's kind of a hierarchy to engaging on social media. So clicking like is the bottom of the totem pole, right? The bottom of the engagement list.
David Burkus: [00:11:07] And there's almost an acknowledgement that you saw it, right? Like I'm saying that I saw this .
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:12] But it doesn't even matter because if I have a 187 likes on something, I don't go, “Hmm, who are these people?” Right? I don't care. And even comments. I might recognize it because I'll probably read all the comments, but I might not remember that somebody did that. So above that which is above alike, there's the email which is nice to hear and you might get that. And above that as a text because it comes to my phone. Above that as a phone call, but then there's a line of like propriety where you go, “Not sure why this person is randomly calling me out of the blue.” And some people are cool with it, some people aren't. And then above the phone call is seeing that person in person live and in the flesh, which is the top of the engagement totem pole, however, requires a certain level of rapport. You can't just show up to someone's house and see them. “Hey, I heard you had a baby, saw it on Facebook that I'd pop by.” Kind of weird unless you're related or were they really, really close?
David Burkus: [00:12:01] Well, that's true. But you can also sort of schedule it. Like I actually literally did this today in a Facebook group that you and I are in, and you'll see it. Is I live in a part of the world that is not really known for its amazing networking scene, right? I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's the 47th largest city in America, right? But, but I save a ton of money on housing and I use some of that money to put myself in New York, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, et cetera. Literally, two weeks from now, I'm going to New York City and so I just started reaching out and going, all right, who in my weekend dormant ties do I need to reconnect with, lets sort of plan something. So you can make that face to face thing happened to me. Please don't just show up at somebody's house, but you can, you can kind of add this weak tie or dormant tie reconnection to whatever travel you're doing anyway.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:012:42] And you've got an interesting story in the book about how essentially the UFC as we know it, which has just sold for, I don't know, like 3.8 billion dollar or something insane. Those two guys were, I don't know, college roommates or something like that or buddies. And that was a dormant tie that got rekindled. And then dot, dot, dot profit. But like a lot of profit.
David Burkus: [00:13:03] Yeah. So this is one of my favorite stories in the book. It's actually the kind of the opening story in the book. It's Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta. So if you follow MMA, you know Dana White, because he's the bald guy that yells at fighters on the ultimate fighter. Lorenzo Fertitta is one of the two brothers that provided the money. Lorenzo and his brother, Frank Jr. And Lorenzo and Dana went to high school together. So they went to high school together in, in Las Vegas. Dana got kicked out, which is the ultimate way to sort of become a dormant tie or the ultimate reason for someone to become a dormant tie. It was actually the second time he got kicked out of that same school, so his family sent him to New England to like live with his grandmother, and so they obviously fell out of touch.
[00:13:41] Eventually, Dana kind of sneaked his way through odd jobs and stuff back to Las Vegas. He was a boxing trainer, he was opening a gym. He was managing Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, and the early, early stages of the UFC under the original group. And then he gets invited to a high school friend's wedding, and I like to picture it, I have no way to confirm this, but I like to picture it of like you look up at the buffet and there's Lorenzo, right? And now they're talking and they're reconnecting. They find out that they both love prize fighting. Lorenzo sits on the athletic commission for a Nevada State. Obviously, the casinos are hosting price finding events and so they kind of reconnect over that idea. And then they probably do what most of us do, which is, “Oh this is great, we should do it again sometime soon.” Right? But unlike us, they actually do, a couple weeks later, Dana, through his management of a couple of UFC fighters finds out that the original owners are losing money. And so he calls up Lorenzo and literally he said, just says, I think the UFC is for sale, and I think you should buy it. And so Lorenzo and Frank buy it. They give Dana 10 percent in exchange for being sort of the president of it and running the whole thing. They buy it for like 2 million dollars. They pump another I think around 40 million dollars in it over a couple of years. But we all know the rest of the story, right? It becomes the fastest growing sport in America for like 20 years. They just sold it for 4 billion dollars, which for perspective is about what Disney paid Lucasfilm for the entire Star Wars franchise, right? And all of this because two dormant ties reconnected at a high school friend's wedding and then stayed on it and created value out of that.
[00:15:10] But yeah, it's a beautiful example of just how much potential there is when people who are running in two different circles or in two different areas of the network reconnect and reignite that tie.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:20] Nice. And have Florida for 4 million dollars.
David Burkus: [00:13:03] Well, yeah, I mean they actually have a lot more than 44 at the time, but yeah. But yeah, I mean and actually, you know what’s funny is a lot of their heirs to the particular, their dad started a bunch of stuff then they started her own independent company eventually merged it. But their dad, Frank Senior actually told them both not to do it. And they both sort of acted on their gut and trusted Dana, and it was, it was the only business decision they've ever made that they didn't have their dad's approval, but they do now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:47] He's like, “See, I hear this is going to work, you kids.”
David Burkus: [00:15:50] Exactly, right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:51] I told you.
David Burkus: [00:15:51] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:52] Because anything like my Dad, he probably tried to be like, yeah, I never said not to buy that, that would be crazy. I saw this thing coming to a mile away.
David Burkus: [00:15:59] Yeah, totally called it. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:01] Yeah, totally called it. Exactly. Nailed it.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:26] So rekindling those dormant ties, finding strengthen those weak ties. So looking at social media as a channel to do this, we really don't need a ton of other strategies. What if somebody doesn't use social media? What if I don't have Facebook? I don't have Instagram. I find all of that to be a waste of time. Joining and starting it seems like it has more of a distraction quality, a distractionary quality than a utility quality. Are there any other ways that you can suggest taking advantage of these dormant or weak ties?
David Burkus: [00:18:54] Yeah, so I mean, and you bring up a really good point, right? Right now the big movement is like delete Facebook, but that also involves having to have to have had one, right? And everybody's complaining about their overcrowded newsfeed, but only if you have one. If you were, shall we say, one of the smarter people and never got into it, I don’t know. There's a couple pieces of software that will literally like monitor your email and actually inform you when it's been so long since you've reconnected with someone.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:17] I use Contactually for this, and that's here probably talking about, right?
David Burkus: [00:19:19] That's exactly who I'm talking about. Zvi and his team are fantastic. It's a great piece of software. They should sponsor the Jordan Harbinger Show. I'll talk to them about that when I talk to them soon.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:29] Do it. They give me free Contactually though. So you know, I'm fine.
David Burkus: [00:19:33] I don't get free Contactually, and I'm here plugging the them. That's how much I like it, I guess.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:36] Yeah, yeah, exactly. I don't know there's a million jokes in here. But Contactually is great because what it does, and I've talked about this a bunch on the show as well, but it doesn't hurt to nail it one more time. It'll look in your G-mail and you put people into buckets by playing the little bucket game. And it's like, “Oh, David Burkus, Kevin Bacon, okay, they're in the 90 day bucket.” And every 90 days it's like, “Hey, you haven't spoke with this guy in a while.” Or, it leaves you alone, if it does see an email or interaction. And you can also say, “Oh, I texted him.” “Oh, actually, we hung out the other day.” And you can keep notes, and it's really, really useful. I'm willing to it in the show notes, but it's something that I bump probably every now and again here on the show because it is so useful and people go, what? I'm not going to pay for this. It should be free just like Gmail. And the answer is no, because there's a lot going on and it really is so useful.
[00:20:22] People always go, “How do you keep track of like 1100 people every year?” And maybe even more? And the answer is Contactually. And every Monday, I go through and I see who I haven't spoken with and I go through and I email, text, call, whatever, and I invest time in this. And I think people try to figure out that whole networking thing, David. But they're kind of like, “How do I do this in a way that requires no time at all because I'm so busy.” They don't think this is a worthwhile investment that I should continue to engage in, in my business and in my personal life. A lot of people think networking is like something that kind of happens while you're at the gym or playing racquetball. And if it doesn't, then it's fake. And I think that's an excuse process that people have.
David Burkus: [00:21:03] I think the template that a lot of people use for networking is how many new people am I meeting from day to day, right? And Contactually is not that. Contactually is a service to keep rewarming and reconnecting with your weekend dormant ties, right? And so I can totally understand where you feel like, “Oh, maybe it's not worth it.” And instead they're running around like sending LinkedIn requests to everyone and bugging the crap out of them, right? I totally get that. But I think that's the mental model problem is there's these the autopilot thing for sure. But I think there's also this idea that, oh, do you feel like it's not working because you're not meeting new people, right? So now I'll tell you something that's really interesting. So I use Contactually, I pay for Contactually, so that tells you how much I love it.
[00:21:41] And in truth, like I get an email every morning at 8 a.m., and it sends me an email that you need to reconnect with these people and you need to update this person's contact information or whatever. I went through a stretch where I think it was -- I think it was 95 days straight where I did not have a notification to reach back out to anyone. And that was because I was doing the news feed hack. And because I was doing contacts app roulette, which is the other game that I play often, which is like scroll through something. And here's the thing that you get to do to not be inauthentic. You scroll through sort of your contacts, you land on a name that you know like, “Oh, it's been awhile since I talked to them.” Don't send them an email right then, but just move them from the back of your mind to the front of your mind over the next day or two. And I guarantee you, you will eventually find something, a news article, right? A tweet, a blurb, a sound bite, a thing like you saw on a TV show. Like you'll eventually find some reason because you're thinking about them, because they're top of mind. You'll find some reason to then reach out to them the next couple days. And then there you go, you've got your sort of reconnected person. And so I went through a stretch about 95 days where it never reminded me to send an update to anybody because I was doing those two things.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:49] Nice. So you pay in for Contactually, and you don't even need it.
David Burkus: [00:22:51] No, I still need it because it's a way better system for managing even contact information and all of that kind of stuff than anything else I've seen.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:59] Of course, yeah. And look, I might be good for doormen and weaker ties, but I will be the first to admit it. I throw my family in here too. I will readily throw -- I throw my family in there, and I'm like, “Oh, you haven't talked to your cousin.” Because here's the thing, otherwise you see him at holiday parties and it's like, “Oh yeah,” but if you throw him in there, you will keep in touch with people and people will be like, “Dang, you are on top of this.” And I realized some people feel like that's cheating, but it really kind of isn't because unless you have super human powers, you're just not going to remember to keep in touch with everyone.
David Burkus: [00:23:29] Well, all right, so here's my line for that, right? Because everybody, everybody thinks, “Oh, it's cheating,” or “Oh, it's inauthentic,” or “Oh, it's whatever.” all right? You're married, I'm married, right? Try that line on your wife like, “Oh, I forgot to plan a date night for us this week because I didn't want to use a tool to remind myself, or “Oh, I forgot it's our anniversary because I didn't want to put it in the calendar. Like you know that the important relationships in your life, you should be intentional about and develop systems to remind yourself about important things that rule should apply to everyone. The only difference is how many systems and how much are you doing, but you should be intentional with all of them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:01] I think where it crosses the line, and I don't think it actually does this, and if it does, I don't even know. But where it crosses the line as if it's all automated. I hate the ones where there's -- and I don't remember this tool, and if I did, I wouldn't throw it under the bus. But there are tools that do things like, “Hey, how was the introduction I just made with Joel?” And it's like, sent with such and such and such, and I'm like, “You didn't even send this follow-up.” I want to archive this, and now I'm annoyed. And I don't know why, but I think it's just sort of lazy when there's a program making introductions for me. It just seems like I don't want to devote any time and to thinking whether or not this is useful for you. I just want a program to just do it for me, so that I look like I'm talking with a lot of people at once or maintaining my connections.
David Burkus: [00:24:42] One of the most interesting studies that I found in the book was this idea that essentially your online persona, your online networks, et cetera, none of those efforts are actually all that worthwhile unless all they do is sort of aid offline relationships, right? And this is why you see studies of teenagers that are most active on these tools but are reporting record levels of loneliness and all of that kind of stuff. So you know, it's not just the automation that's the problem. It's that when that when the entire context for that relationship is digitized, it's not helping. What we're talking about, where you and I both sort of agree is in the safe zone is when you're using tools to help you be intentional about an authentic offline real relationship. And that we could all use more help on, because I mean it's a hugely important part of our lives and not just our professional lives, but our personal lives. So there's no reason not to be authentic about it. And there's no reason not to use systems where it crosses, like you said, where it crosses the line is when you're automating, but you're also doing it in a way that it isn't representative of what your real world social network looks like.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:43] You mentioned in front of a friend that the people who have the most value in a network are people who fill structural holes. You say become a broker and fill structural holes. What are we talking about here?
David Burkus: [00:25:55] So structural holes are one of the more fascinating insights from network science, right? I think often when we think about networks, we kind of start to envision maybe this thing where everybody's connected everybody or everybody's 60 degrees of Kevin Bacon. Actually, it's not even about Kevin Bacon. We talked about that too, but that's a whole other monologue. But we kind of think that, okay, this means that in in a technology era, sort of everybody's connected. The truth is that doesn't happen for a variety of reasons people tend to cluster together. They cluster together by a work function, by work experience. They cluster together by political ideology. They cluster together by gender, they cluster together for a lot of different reasons. In most settings there's a lot of clustering based on what your work experiences and what industry you sort of work in, right?
[00:26:36] So Jordan is a podcast, right? So Jordan has tons of people in this space that he knows, right? So because of that clustering, what happens is gaps form, right? Sort of dead space in the network where because people are clustering close together, they're sort of a gravitational pull, and you're leaving space in between that and the gravitational pull of another cluster. That's a structural hole. That's not the term I invented. It's a term that Ronald Bert used to coin. It's a hole in the structure created by that sort of clustering. But what happens though, too much clustering is a bad thing because people all now think alike, act alike. They all have access to the same information. They're all sharing the same best practices, and as a result, nobody's sort of getting better, right? And so it turns out that the people that unlock the most value for everybody, including the most value for themselves are the people that find a way to tie those two communities together.
David Burkus: [00:27:23] So in the book I talk about this amazingly brilliant woman, Jane McGonigal, who was a game designer by trade, right? She knew how to design video games and also sort of in-person games. And then she had a head trauma, nothing serious, like it wasn't even a car accident. It was kind of she hit her head coming up on the, on the cupboard from picking something up off the floor. But it turned out to be more serious than she suspected. And as a got worse and worse, she got more and more depressed, and eventually she says this line, I think this is a brilliant summation of sort of her state, but also the good that she was about to produce in the world. She said, “I'm either going to kill myself or I'm going to turn recovery into a game.”
[00:27:58] And she did, she used everything she knew about game design to design challenges for her, to figure out sort of what was her superhero identity to identify sort of the bad guys. And she treated her recovery like a game and got better as a result of it, got better faster. And then she did that sort of the next step, which is she started working with the medical and mental health communities to start researching how can these type of games actually help patients recover not just from a head trauma, but from mental illness, from challenges, from obesity, from what have you. And the result is this program called Super Better, which is a game that helps you get not just better, not just get well soon, but helps you get sort of super better. And basically what she did is she connected to communities that would otherwise never interact, right? The video game community and the medical community, and she unlocked a tremendous amount of value by being the bridge between those two communities.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:49] Okay, so how do we set ourselves up as the bridge between these types of communities? Do we just look at our existing qualifications and then say, “Hey, this is what we need to do now bridge these two.” I mean, is there a system that you use or anything like that?
David Burkus: [00:29:04] Yeah, so this is where it gets a little tricky and maybe we depart from network science to network art, right? So the first thing I would say is that in order to bridge two communities, you have to be at least decently embedded inside of one of them, right? You can't just be that guy on the fringes yelling, “Hey, I think we should talk to the medical community.” You're going to get sort of shunned. You have to be deeply embedded with one. So when you are a super early in your career, ignore all of this advice, but when you've got three, five, six years, you've got a decent amount number of contacts, et cetera. What I would start doing is kind of stop trying to add contacts in that sort of cluster. It's going to naturally happen to you anyway. And start thinking about who are the communities that I might know one or two people with and how can I be deliberate about asking them to introduce me to more folks?
[00:29:48] You might ask them like, can I crash to your next sort of trade association meeting? Do you have a meet-up that I can go to, if you want to do sort of the in-person events, but really you just start working through those connections that your history and your experiences sort of already had. And I wish I could tell you there was some sort of super deliberate way that you can just pick two communities and insist on getting them together. But the truth is you sort of have to look at who am I already connected to and then how can I use that person as a referral to this other community that I can then start to get to know. And then you find the ways to connect to them and then you find the ways to provide value for them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:19] And this type of thing will be in the worksheets that we create for every episode, including this one. And those worksheets are at jordanharbinger.com/podcast in the show notes for the episode.
[00:30:30] What about these people that you refer to as super connectors? Let's talk about how good I'm at -- how good I am at that for a moment. That's the chapter I'm in. Let's feel free to focus on that for a few minutes.
David Burkus: [00:30:43] But enough about you. Let's talk about me. What do you think of me? Right, yeah, exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:47] Where am I in this book?
David Burkus: [00:30:48] So, all right, so super connector is, is a term that we know in networking often. This was actually one of the most frustrating things for me and looking at how can I merge -- and this is literally to go back to structural holes. What I'm trying to do is bridge a structural hole between network science research and networking advice. And one of the most frustrating things is that both use the term super connector, right? And people will say that Keith Rozzi coined it, or that Malcolm Gladwell coined it, with the truth as it comes out of the network science literature from a long, long time ago. Because one of the things that we thought about how networks operate is that there are certain people who have a disproportionate number of contacts to all sorts of other people.
[00:31:21] And that's true. It's actually true on a scale that we didn't even assume. So often we think about like if I asked you how many people you know? I mean you said, “11,000,” you already hinted at why you're in the chapter on super connectors. Most of us feel like it's probably an average, right? There's some middle ground, some people throughout Dunbar's number here, the 150, but everybody is thinking about an inverted U. And the truth is if you map out a number of people's connections that actually follows a power law, a parade of principle, right? 80, 20. And so there are people at the top of that with exponentially disproportionate number of connections to other people. This is why actually it feels like everybody knows more people than you because those people skew the averages.
[00:32:01] The other thing, and this is potentially the more interesting thing that I see, is those people become a source of introduction for lots of people. So this was you and what one of the things that we talked about and when we can dive into that deeper if you want to keep talking about you. But the other thing I think is interesting, and this is also true to your life, is that over time as you assemble more contacts, getting newer and newer connections gets easier, right? So the way that I think about it is literally like gravity, you get a certain sort of critical mass and gravity takes over and people sort of naturally come to you. The rule of this is called preferential attachment. It's linked to the super connector research that essentially when a new person enters the field, they're more likely to get connected to the most connected person than they are anyone else. And over time you arrive at this idea that like there's people who networking just comes naturally, then it does it. The nature law is preferential attachment.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:51] Right, so this is why some people look like, “Oh man, you're so great at networking.” And people will say things like that about people that I know or even about me. And I'm like, “No, not really. I mean kind of maybe, but in the past, I've just been pretty consistent. I'm not spending hours and hours a day networking, reaching out to people, et cetera. It's just that my inbox is just full of, “Hey Jordan, do you want to meet this person?” “Hey, my friend's thinking of starting a podcast and they're really big in this other field. You guys should talk, are you up for it?” So I end up just answering my email. Whereas in the beginning of this process, I'd have to reach out to somebody who knows you and then I would become friends with you for a while and then you'd introduce me to somebody based on a request. Now their requests are just in my inbox and everyday there's at least a handful.
[00:33:34] So these people are continually entering my orbit, so to speak. And that's why if you look at other people who you think are quote unquote, naturally good at networking, and you're like, I'm not that person. It's not because they're specifically outgoing or especially organized in what they're doing, it's just that maybe they've been a little bit, even a little bit deliberate about this process for a year or two years or three years. And then they end up with what you would call it, the gravitational pull or this critical mass where people just think of them and association with something, and they end up with a massive Rolodex as a result of that.
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David Burkus: [00:36:17] So this is the, the good news and the bad news of superconnectors, right? The bad news is that if people feel like it's coming naturally to other people, that's true, and other people do have an advantage. The good news is that if you put in the work, it gets easier over time. And this is why I wanted to interview you for the book, was that I saw two things in your story. The first was that you put in the work. I mean we're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show, this is your 11th year of podcasting. I won't even know how many years of sort of---
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:42] 12, no big deal.
David Burkus: [00:36:43] 12, no big deal okay whatever.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:44 It’s cool, let’s not split hairs.
David Burkus: [00:36:47] And I don't even know how many years before that of sort of being in the professional space at acquiring connections, referrals, et cetera. So you mean you put in the work and we're very deliberate about it. The second reason that you are in the book is that you, one of the ways that you're very deliberate about that is that you're worried about the network as a whole, not just you. You're not trying to run up your score. No part of when you said you have 11,000 people in your Contactually was braggadocious, right? It was just a statement of fact.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:037:31] It sounds like so much or so little depending on where you're at, but if you think about that many people in a room, and these are business ties, and of course, it's not everyone that I know. Those are the people that are in Contactually. 11,000 sounds like a crazy number, but I want to correct that because I think I don't want to overwhelm people by them going, I literally haven't met 11,000 people in my whole life. I'm never going to be able to do this. I took Jordan 11 and a half, 12 years. Really? I think you could do, you could build a great network in a couple of years. If you go to a few events, you keep in touch with a handful of people. You ask for introductions when you need them, and you help other people. I don't think it's going to take 10 years. I don't even think it's going to take five years.
David Burkus: [00:37:53] Oh, so maybe you're bad at this and that's why it took so long to get no, I mean, yeah, to your point.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:58] Yeah, yeah, I'm not good at it. It's actually, I'm not good at it at all. That's why I took 12 years, it's because I don't have the systems or didn't have this systems until recently. But you're right, I didn't have this systems until recently.
David Burkus: [00:38:08] But you put in the work, and the other thing and what I was going to say is that you also care about the network. One of the things you told me when I was interviewing for this book is that 90 percent of the time when you're in conversation with someone, one of the things that's running on in your mind besides sort of what witty thing am I about to say next. The other thing that's going on in your mind is who do I know that can help this person right now? The problem when most of us when we meet someone is we assume that like if they're not immediately useful to me now, then this is a waste of my time, then we start doing the eyes looking over thing even unintentionally, right? And then we become the very jerk that we hated from the same event. You have a very different question. You're asking in your mind, okay, I can't help this person, but who can I connect to this person to that could help them with this? You're taking care of the entirety of the network that's around you, and over time the network started taking care of you and bringing those connections to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:57] Yeah, you're right. This is something that I developed over time. This was a habits or set of habits where I really was just thinking, all right, I'm meeting so many people at a lot of these different events, especially where I go speak and things like that. If you're just looking for people that can help you, you're going to -- I felt like I was coming across just horribly because I was going through so many conversations and thinking, “Oh, what am I going to be able to do?” “Oh, this is not going to be a useful event,” and I realized I can either look at the majority of my life is a giant waste of time, right? And just trying to get home as quick as possible. Or I can treat meeting people like packing a snowball and I'm packing the snowball together, that is my network.
[00:39:40] And so everyone I meet, even if I met a random photographer that lives in a different state. And I thought, I'm never going to have this person shoot photos of me. I'm never going to have any use for this at all, but he's a nice guy, so we chatted a little bit. And then when I went up on stage, he took a really good photo of me and it turned out to be the photo that I use for my Facebook profile. And I ended up referring him to a couple of people. And it turned into something because I allowed it to, and you have to get that mindset going or you will start to get discouraged because you'll really realize most of the people that you meet, they're never going to be able to help you, and even if they can, they won't. So 90 to 99 out of a 100 people will not be able to help you. And if you're only worried about that, you're going to view all of this as a giant waste of time, or inauthentic. If you start looking for how those people that you meet can help other people that you already know, even in the most minute of ways, then you will find utility in every relationship that you have.
David Burkus: [00:40:41] And it goes exactly right. And the only thing I would add is that also you can't help them, right? So they can't help you, but also you can help them unless you look at your role as trying to find a connection for them. And by the way, this is something that we actually do outside of our professional lives sort of naturally, right? Like if you, if you think about all of those times where you're like, “Oh, do you know so, oh, it's a small word.” Like where you naturally sort of are feeling people out and thinking about the network as a whole and your community, you do it in your personal lives anyway, right? When you're in conversations with people, you're thinking about what friends might they know, what friends would be good for them to hang out with and introduced to, et cetera.
[00:41:18] Like we do this anyway on the friend side, that's why the book's called Friend of a Friend, and not some weird professional networking term. We do it anyway, so we already know how to do most of this. We're social creatures. The weird thing I think is that about 40 years ago we start maybe sooner, I don't know. When did how to win friends and influence people come out, we started listening to—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:36] 1937 or so.
David Burkus: [00:41:39] So yeah, so I got your podcasting wrong, and I got the date of that way wrong. So there we go now. But we started listening to other people's advice and then trying to apply other people's advice and other people's tactics and then we started feeling inauthentic. We're like, no wonder it's not your life and your advice, so no wonder you felt inauthentic, and then we dropped it. And literally I think 90 percent of people can level up their networking and connection making just by treating people less like businessy contacts and more like this person is my friend, how can I help them? How can that connect them with somebody, just treating them like a friend. You will level dramatically level up your networking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:14] It was 1936 not 1939, that's when How to Win Friends and Influence People came out first.
David Burkus: [00:42:20] You are way better at working the computer while you're doing this interview. I've been staring at the same little line moving up and down this whole time, and you're like on Contactually looking up How to Win Friends and Influence People. You're probably already writing the show notes, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:34] Yeah, it's easy when I'm just not listening to anything that you say. I just can do all kinds of other things at the same time. All right, tell me about the illusion of the majority. This is a cool concept that you and I talked about a long time ago when I was in Australia. And I'm actually excited to read about this because I feel like I've been dancing around this idea in my head and never had a name for it.
David Burkus: [00:42:55] Yeah, and a lot of people have, right? So this is actually, a lot of people who are listening to this might be familiar with Tim Ferriss and what he calls the surround sound effect, right? So when Tim was looking to launch his first book like, it's hard to think about this now back when he was just sort of this vitamin salesman on the edges of the internet that nobody knew about. There was a time where that was true, and he decided he wants to write this book and promote it. But he had no contacts in sort of the publicity or publishing space other than his publishing house. And so he's looking at what do I do? Okay, well let's define who’s my target audience, who am I trying to reach? These are sides on 18 to 35 year old tech savvy males, right?
[00:43:32] And so then he asks, where do they meet up? Where do they get their information? Who are they connected with? And he arrives at a small list of tech blogs that basically if you look at just that list of 15 or so, you'll hit 95 percent of the people in that demographic. So then he starts very deliberately building connections to journalists who work for that, those blogs. And he's doing everything that we've talked about prior to this. He's not being a total skis. He's not begging for help. He's just building a relationship and trusting that over time that relationship will take care of him as he takes care of the other person. And sure enough, when it comes time to launch the book, all of those blogs are writing about it. So if you are, I mean there was a time, the first couple of weeks of launch that if you were 18 to 35 year old tech savvy male, everyone around you was talking about Tim Ferriss. And if you weren't, you had no idea who this person is.
[00:44:22] Later, he would build off of that success and be on like New York Times and Good Morning America, and all that sort of stuff. And so he called this strategy of the surround sound effect. Well, it turns out it's actually a network principle. We’re social creatures. We take our cues, we take our opinions, we take a lot of information out from what everyone around us is doing because I mean, let's face it, there's just too much information in the world to analyze it all rationally and logically ourselves. So we take our cues by the people around us, which means, and we don't get to view every single person in survey, every person around us, which means that the people who are most connected in a community usually have the most sort of subtle influence over everyone else.
[00:045:00] And so if you can target those people, you can make something seem far more popular than it really is in reality because you're targeting, or you're having the people who are most connected in that community promoting you, right? And you look around and you think, man, everyone is talking about this. And in reality, sort of not, not necessarily. I think if I may go on a rant on this, so this is something that we talked about a while back. This is a strategy that I'm going to go ahead and claim credit for giving to you. But this is the strategies that you've been using since you've relaunched the show, which is where do I -- I can't go back to the old audience of the prior show, but what else do they listen to? Who else are they connected to? I'm going to start asking those people for help because I know that everybody's taking their cues. They used to be taking their cues from that show and a couple others. So if I can get help from those other ones, people will catch on faster. And as a result, like you wasted no time picking back up that audience.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:53] Yeah, it was kind of funny because use I knew I couldn't access the art of charm audience in any way. Because I talked to everyone on Twitter and in my email inbox and events, so I knew the top, I don't know, 40 plus or more podcasts that all of these people listen to, and essentially started to reach out to them. And it's funny because Jason and I, in the beginning, people were like, “What? You guys left?” “Oh my God, I didn't know.” And it was one, two, three, four weeks later. Now it's six, seven, eight weeks later, depending on when this comes out. And I'm starting to get messages. Like when I write, “Hey, how did you find that I'd left and find the new show?” People have been starting to say things like, “You're literally everywhere.” And I texted a couple of people today and I said, “Hey, I haven't talked to you in a while.” And they went, “Yeah, I heard you went off on your own.” And I said, “Oh really? How'd you find that?” And they went, 7,000 different people posted it on Facebook and emailed it to me, and you're on every podcast. And I went, “Oh yeah, good.”
David Burkus: [00:46:49] Right. And so and so two big things there. One, it wasn't really 7,000, right? But it was an influential percentage of the people that those people are watching---
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:55] Yeah, it could have been a five.
David Burkus: [00:46:47] Right. But two, you didn't go after it. Like I didn't hear you on Hardcore History. I didn't hear you on Pod Save America, right? Why?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:04] Because I don’t know those people.
David Burkus: [00:46:45] Because I don't know your community. Well, okay, you don't know those people, but also it'd be a waste of your time. Your community isn't taking their cues off of those people, and that's where the majority illusion comes into effect. Like we still have this idea even in 2018 that like you need mass media, mass outreach to get a message out. And in reality you don't, you just need to be really clear about who you want to receive that message and then study that receiver and target the people that person is taking their cues off of. And then you can appear to be everywhere even though you're really not.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:35] All right, so that's the illusion of the majority and I love that. We can use that concept to our advantage, of course, especially once we have an existing network and contacts, and we can sort of analyze the network for where we're going to find the most influence, the most use. The other side of that coin is, is what you refer to, or what is referred to as the pole of homophily. That's a term I'd never heard for sure. Tell us about what that is, and the downside to being caught up in this.
David Burkus: [00:47:59] Yeah, so homophily is great. It's like a, it's like a 12 dollar word. Essentially it means like attracts like, like birds of a feather flock together, all of those sort of things. What I think is interesting is when you look at it from a network perspective, it's actually less about our natural tendencies to be around people who are like us and it's more of a network effect. Homophily is literally what happens when clustering goes too far, right? We talked about how you need some clustering and then you need to bridge out and become a broker of outside of structural hole. Clustering happens when a community is sort of too segregated when you are too much just in that one community and not paying attention to anything else. And what's probably most interesting about this is like we said, we think this comes from sort of a desire to only be around people who are like us or working in our same industry, et cetera, but it actually is a network effect.
[00:48:44] What happens is once you start having three or four people who are close to you, who are all very, very similar to you, even if you're deliberately networking, you're deliberately trying to add a new connections. Most of the time those connections are going to come through those referrals and they're going to be people who are similar to those people. In other words, people similar to you. And so you end up running around actively trying to meet more people to grow your network, but growing a network that looks exactly like you and the primary value of any network is information. And when all of your information is coming from people that are taking their cues off of each other, that are all reading the same things, that are all having the same reactions, you're missing out on a lot of information that you need to actually benefit your career to make better decisions, to create value, all of those sort of things. So homophily is really interesting because you can even think like, no, I'm open minded. I'm not a bigot. I love diversity. I'm reaching out to all of these people and then look around your network and realize, no, they're all like me because I haven't been deliberate enough about who I'm connecting with and who I'm maintaining relationships with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:43] Right, so we have to make a concerted effort to reach outside of our usual network. Otherwise everyone just kind of looks like us. And this is something that you I think had mentioned with that Gimlet, the podcast company is going through because when I think of Gimlet, I think, cool, these are a bunch of people that used to work for NPR or Slate or something. And now working in an office in Brooklyn, that's down the block from their other office in Brooklyn. And they kind of came to this realization as well. And they went, “We need diversity.” And they're like, “We need to hire other people from other parts of Brooklyn that worked at other offices of NPR.” And then they realized, “Oh crap, now we're still doing the same thing.”
David Burkus: [00:50:19] Yeah. So this is the really interesting thing about Gimlet, right, is that they actually, I mean to their credit, they realize they have this problem and they did an episode about it actually of startup. And what started the problem is they realized they had a racial diversity problem, that there were not enough people of color working in the company. And as they started investigating that, they realized they had arguably a bigger problem, which was an ideological problem. Regardless of the race, it's a bunch of people from Brooklyn, right? It's sort of that set, and it's a bunch of people who used to work at NPR, so they're only kind of familiar with that model, right?
[00:50:50] And so over time, I mean there's a really telling moment in that episode where they're talking about, okay, we need to increase diversity here with more people of color. We need more people this, and then like, “Wait a minute, do we have any conservative evangelicals,” or do we have anyone who knows anything about NASCAR?” Like they realize that they're not actually kind of active in all spheres. They don't have that because what have they been using to recruit people up to that point? It was basically people from public radio, which is why all the shows sound like they could have been radio lab, right? I think the thing that I think is most interesting, you and I were talking about this when I was researching the book is that they had their sort of network and as a result they had never really even encountered alternative business models like what you had at the prior company, like what you have with the Jordan Harbinger Show that allows you to almost have a more profitable business than just trying to get a bunch of people listening and then turning those downloads into ad revenue.
[00:51:44] There's so many other business models that you can use podcasting as, but they had no awareness that those models even existed because of that. And to their credit, so again, this is the long slow march of publishing. The diversity issue episode came out and they actually recently did an update where they were talking about how we've done some good things to increase diversity along the sort of the lower levels of the organization. But we're having a really hard time at the senior levels because we're all relying on our networks. Like they finally, they didn't see the problem the first time. I was listening to the episodes screaming at my car because I could see it as a network problem. They didn't, now they do. They see that they're need going to need to take more deliberate effort to grow their contacts outside of that community so that the referrals and things like that can come in.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:09] So one sort of cliché that we keep coming back to on every show that's about personal growth, self-help, networking, whatever is that Jim Rohn concept or quote, “You only go as high as your five closest friends or you're the average of the five closest people around you.” And that speaks to the network effects of friendship. And we're seeing in other studies, and I think Tali Sharot might've talked about this earlier on the show here, that even your friends, friends, if you have, like if you have a bunch of fitness friends, but then one of them lives with somebody who is obese or out of shape, that person's health habits start to affect you even if you've never met them, which is crazy. So you get these widespread pervasive network effects of friendship. Can you speak to that?
David Burkus: [00:53:13] Yeah, yeah. So you're exactly right. It's almost a cliché, right? I've heard you even say it. You're the average of the five poppies throughout. I've wanted to like ship you glitter sometimes, because I know you know about the book now, right? And you still say it, but it's not actually true. I mean it is true, and it's not that you're not influenced by your friends, it's that you're influenced by way more than you think. So the research for this comes from two brilliant network scientists, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. And they looked at data from the Framingham Heart Study, which is one of the largest and longest running health studies ever. Asked a bunch of questions, not just about the heart, but about taking measurements, asking questions about social habits, et cetera, asking who they knew because it all happened in Framingham, Massachusetts. They could kind of map the actual network of that community.
[00:53:58] And what they found out is like you said, like your friends do influence who you, their first study was on obesity, and they found out that your friends make you fat, but so do their friends and so do their friends, friends. So your friend of a friend of a friend, you might've never met them, you can still see a statistical, a statistically significant relationship between their level or lack of level of obesity and yours. And it's not like a correlation or it's not that like fat people like to hang out together. This study progressed for 30 years, so you see a causal mechanism here. And we think the reason is around norms that the people around you shape your norms, which is what Jim Rohn was getting at. But those people are influenced by the people around them and them around them.
[00:54:35] It's just concentric circles, right? And so follow up studies show, it has to do with smoking habits. The biggest one is of happiness. This is probably where the research came in, in those earlier episodes. And I mean I think the lesson here, and again this is why the book is called Friend of a Friend, not like how to be a power network scientists, whatever, right? Is that we know this is kind of true on a personal side and we know that the people that were around us affect us personally. But we tend to like put networking in a box and think it's only about professional networking and it's only about adding more contexts. And in reality like your friend of a friend is your future. Your whole network around you affects the decisions you're going to make, how happy you're going to be, how satisfied with your life you're going to be. And so there's no excuse for not being intentional about it because it's affecting you in more ways than you know. If you want control over that, then you have to start looking at your whole network, seeing all of it, how people are interacting and connecting to each other so that you can navigate it accordingly to get what you want out of life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:30] David Burkus, thank you very much.
David Burkus: [00:55:32] Thank you so much for having me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:35] All right, I love these episodes that we do where it's a friend of mine and it's about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, networking, relationship development, always a little bit of an easier episode. And David always brings it. He taught me a lot of the little networking tips and tricks that we have outlined in some of our products and things like that, that we have really fleshed out here on the show as well, so he's a good collaborator.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:55:55] And he's probably still wearing his Batman under ruse this time too.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:58] Yep, yep. Always got the Batman superheroes stuff going on. You can always count on him for a superhero shirt with a blazer over it. That's kind of his trademark thing I think.
[00:56:05] Great big thank you to David Burkus. The book title is Friend of a Friend, and it's all about those networking effects that you heard here on the show today. Super useful stuff and if you enjoyed this one, don't forget to thank David on Twitter. That will all be linked up in the show notes for this episode, which can be found at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Tweet me your number one takeaway here from David Burkus. I'm @jordanharbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, and don't forget, if you want to learn how to apply everything you just heard here from David. Make sure you go grab the worksheets. Those are also in the show notes. Jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:56:40] This episode was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. Show notes are by Robert Fogarty, booking back-office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger.
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