A quick lesson in building community from a small, lovely part of the world.
Medium reader John O'Rourke lives in Scotland, and in the mornings he goes on walks with his dogs. Said dogs on occasion cause him to tumble, as they get tangled in the tangled brambles. We were exchanging thoughts about blackberries the other day.
What charms me about John is that in this small, magnificently wild part of the world, a fine gentleman with whom I happen to share a bit of Irish heritage (only that both have a few Irish bubbles in our blood, just saying somebody jumped the fence a while back), sometimes reads my stuff in the mornings.
Who knew, right?
Not just that but he attends. This morning, in response to a recent article, John fired me an article of interest from The Guardian which I am going to use in a future piece.
If I may make a point here about manners, community, and how you and I create friendships in the world’s farther corners.
I have trained sales for some of the world’s largest corporations. While my consulting career has slowed down, I continue to be in talks with one of the world’s largest food companies. That didn’t happen by accident. In part, I did what John did. Stay with me here.
Five years ago I identified someone at a company that interested me on LinkedIn. Connected. Periodically sent articles or items of interest. Provided ideas, recommendations, introductions to other people as was appropriate. As this touches diversity, I also periodically sent articles by anti-racism writers like Rebecca Stevens A. and Sharon Hurley Hall. I never ever ever EVER asked for anything. We eventually met when his company moved to Denver. We shared an Army and supply chain background. We made friends. That was five years ago and counting. I like and respect this person and I want to see him succeed. Therefore I am always on the lookout for good information, articles, and above all, talent.
Last year he was cherry-picked by a huge new corporation, and we are now talking about a potential contract. That didn’t happen because I pummeled him with puerile sales pitches. The man is a C-Suite Vice President. He’s also a human being as are we all, and he very much appreciated the small courtesies that I consistently offered over time. When it was time to meet in person, he had a solid sense of my character. What you and I consistently do speaks to character. Not just what we do to get what we’re after, be it money or a job or sex or whatever we want or think we want.
Not just that, but someone I met on Medium is my business partner in this particular enterprise, which pleases me no end. Whether or not this comes to fruition is anyone’s guess, but we are a lot farther along the process than most people who ever set out to do work with a multi, multi-billion dollar company.
Here’s part of my point: people like this good man are incredibly busy. When you and I spot stuff that they might miss, which might be of great interest or importance, sending them a link to that article is a gift. Sometimes the item you catch could have real repercussions for their company, and nobody saw it. You did. That makes you a hero.
I have a friendship with one of America’s finest conservationists because I did the same thing: he’s an incredible author, and his work changed my life. We’ve been connected for four years. I regularly send him articles, and sometimes it’s something he’s already working on. In one memorable case, it was an horrific op-ed to which he promptly penned a brilliant response in a major newspaper.
You may think yourself too busy or too important to do such things. However, this kind of awareness pays off a million ways to Sunday. First, your habit of linking to other’s work telegraphs your willingness to read others’ stuff, and it also communicates that you’re likely to want to see articles that might otherwise get by you. Now more than ever, kind folks like John are firing me pieces that are very relevant to my work, and which give me brand new ideas for not only articles but for my business. That’s priceless.
I have introduced people to Sharon Hurley Hall for her interviews but also people who are interested in her work. Sharon is constantly promoting and uplifting other authors, so not only does she practice this herself, but I want others to lift her up, too. She is a community-builder.
If you think I’m doing this to brag, you’re missing the point. We grow when we share. We grow when we think about what others are doing and take the extra twelve seconds to fire them an article or book title that might be of interest. The value this brings to those people far, far, far outstrips whatever minor inconvenience of time that it takes to invest in such a gesture.
You know this is coming so I’m gonna go large on you.
Illumination and all its iterations and editors exists because of a community-builder, Dr Mehmet Yildiz. He’s not alone. There are plenty of folks out there trying very hard to do the right thing by social media. There are a thousand ways you and I can add value to each other and to those with whom we’d like to work by first, last and always give value FIRST. I’ve been teaching networking skills for more than twenty years, and the way I teach it is to ALWAYS be of service. Networking, which I am having to do right now to integrate into my new home here in Oregon, has a great deal to do with making sure folks are really happy to see you coming.
If you’re a taker, a faker, forever and always looking to monetize people without regard for their humanity, then you will get the door slammed in your face. Deservedly.
There are plenty of examples of folks who have met each other on Medium, started publications and are working together. This is not some weird thing. You have to work at it.
Given the social media environment we are living in, you can choose, like John, like so many others, to fire helpful notes and articles, to be kind, to create that terrific sense of gratitude and safety that good people build when they do it with kind words. I got my fair share this week, and for those I have nothing but immense and heartfelt thanks. There have been days when the trolls and their knives have done damage.
Imagine how wonderful it is to have someone say to you:
Your writing is like a good friend who I look to for new ideas and perspective, who is a guide on how to age fiercely but with humor and grace, who makes me laugh, cry and sigh sometime all at once…thank you.
Thank you Kathryn Carlson. I see you. This is how we wield our words to heal, to care, to salve, to support, and to help each of us whose guts are sometimes laid open by haters. Kathryn’s words have the effect of a light-as-air angel wing on a shoulder that slumps sometimes when I open a hate-filled diatribe.
If you want to be welcomed into the communities where you spend time, if you want standing and agency and to be respected, give first. Be kind first. Do what few are doing: using social media for good. The way it was originally imagined.
I battle with this like we all do. But when a gentleman living in the cold wilds of Scotland can read my scribblings with his morning cuppa, and care enough to send me a terrific article, I am reminded that perhaps what I do has value. It’s worth their time to support.
When you care about others, what YOU do has value. And when you remind others that they matter, they will indeed be happy to see you coming, including into their inboxes.