It’s Not What You Know, and It’s Not Who You Know. It’s This Other Thing…

The expression is ubiquitous. We’ve all heard it. Our parents proudly explained it to us when we entered the workforce, and it can be found in all the “How-To” books, including mine.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

The Connection Algorithm talks about the power of “Connectors,” or influencers and thought-leaders in a given discipline, or range of disciplines. These are the people you want to get to know, the people who will launch your personal development into the stratosphere.

It’s a nice narrative. “Just befriend these amazing people, and you can be amazing too!”

“But how? How do we befriend them, exactly?”

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve tricked people into buying my book, feeding them an empty promise. But then I catch myself. No, the book is legit. It’s not a vapid claim. You just have to understand what’s being whispered (as opposed to shouted).

The not-so-secret secret of The Connection Algorithm―the whisper, is that it’s not really about making connections. It’s actually about how to make them, which has nothing to do with reaching out, or pitching people, or asking for help. The how happens way before the connection is made.

The world is always changing, and it’s changing at an increasing rate. This means we need to constantly reassess what works, what doesn’t, how to make progress, and how to navigate through our current environment. What was true yesterday might be completely untrue today. The hardest changes to see are the ones that impact a long-standing truth―something that hasn’t changed or switched for a really long time. When the switch happens, we overlook it, assuming it’s just a blip on the radar. It can take years, or decades (or longer) for everyone to understand what’s happening and correct course.

A thousand years ago, ‘who you knew’ was important. If you were friends with the King, or a member of the aristocracy, you were set. How did you get to know them? You were born into the family.

A hundred years ago, ‘who you knew’ was important. If you were friends with John D. Rockefeller, you were set. How’d you get to know him? You had to be a business tycoon, like him.

Twenty five years ago, ‘who you knew’ was important. If you were friends with a CEO, you were set. How’d you get to know one? You’d attend a university, get a job, and work your way up the corporate ladder until you were an exec.

In all of these scenarios, if you knew the powerful person (or group), you could live a privileged life. If you didn’t know the powerful person, you could still have an okay life, but you’d never experience an abundance of wealth. Note that it gets a little easier to know the guy at the top as we move forward in time, but it’s still a challenge.

Because befriending a CEO feels like a reasonable goal (compared to a King, or John D.), many of us are reaching for this outcome nowadays. Or, we’re at least “working our way up the ladder.” But about twenty-five years ago, when the CEO became the master of power, something else happened.

The internet.

It was a switch, but most people only saw it as a blip on the radar. Now, being friends with a CEO, or anyone in power, is still really helpful. Having powerful friends is always helpful. The internet didn’t make it unimportant to know important people. It changed the rules of who gets to be powerful, and how that happens.

Before the internet, you had to get permission from the higher-ups to do stuff. You had to know the King. You had to work with institutions, like banks, to build big businesses. Creating substantial wealth (top 5% of earners) was a hobby reserved for the elite. It was for the incumbents. It only happened behind closed doors. Doors with locks on them. If you wanted to join the party, you needed a gatekeeper to come unlock the door.

Today, there are no doors. They’ve all crumbled to the ground. You don’t need permission from anyone. You just need an internet connection and a computer.

Here’s the new paradigm: It’s no longer what you know, or who you know. It’s what you create. This fundamental shift has been brought on by technologies (mainly the internet) that have made it insanely easy to create all kinds of awesome stuff.

Want to become a published author? Go for it. You don’t need a publisher. Just write your book and self-publish it on Amazon. I did this, and now I’m a bestselling author, selling more books than most authors would have dreamed of selling twenty years ago. Want to sell a product? Go for it. You don’t need a warehouse, or manufacturing equipment, or a storefront, or a bank to finance everything. Just raise money on KickStarter, use Google to find a cheap manufacturer in China, and ship your product to customers all over the world through Amazon, or your own ecommerce store. Want to learn how to start a company? You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars getting an MBA from an accredited university. Take a course on Udemy. Then join a startup accelerator program―and they’ll payyou.

Here’s the thing. Even if you’re not doing this stuff, other people are. The trend is happening whether you like it or not. When new resources become accessible, a sliver of society inevitably flocks to those resources and uses them to their advantage, often reaping astronomically high rewards.

Knowing important people used to be a competitive advantage in creating wealth, but the competitive advantage has shifted to technology. Technology has democratized creation and distribution, destroying the old guard. Knowing important people is still important — don’t get me wrong. But the means of meeting them has changed. And that’s my message in The Connection Algorithm.

Getting a degree, getting hired, and working your way up the corporate ladder is no longer the quickest, safest, or smartest way to befriend CEOs (or anyone else at the top of the particular food chain you’re in). In fact, it’s abad approach. Starting your own company (or selling your own product) and becoming your own boss is a much better strategy. When you do impressive things on your own, other impressive people will want to get to know you.

Doing impressive things used to require knowing impressive people, hence the expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But today, the steps are reversed. Being impressive is now the first step. Meeting impressive people is the second. Once you’ve done cool stuff, connecting becomes effortless.

This is the great misconception of the past twenty years. It’s a misconception resulting from our parents and grandparents telling us how things work.

The problem is that the system has changed dramatically. The college degree is no longer impressive. Standing in line and climbing the corporate ladder is no longer a good way to “get connected”.

The younger generations feel (understandably) entitled to the American Dream if they just follow the rules, but that doesn’t hold up in the new system. The high-value skill in our economy is now entrepreneurship. People who understand the fallacy of the “Who You Know” argument stand to gain the most power in the era of technology. They will be the new Rockefellers.

Your resources are limitless and free. The blank white screen is your laboratory. Go create stuff, and you can meet whoever you want.

It’s no longer what you know or who you know. It’s what you create.

JTev Insiders

Profile square 200 saturated

Get weekly insights for living a passion-filled life, PLUS a free copy of Jesse's upcoming book, Authorpreneur.

We won't send you spam. Promise. Powered by ConvertKit