A regular reader gave me a ring today to ask what he could do to get his own career kicked up to the next level. He likes where he is, but he opines that as an associate with a subject-matter expertise and clientele that do not lend themselves to incorporation into some global, über-Nietzschean, $1000/hour practice: does ad arguendo still have any thoughts?
Well. There is a saying that masters in a field do not so much have learning that their neophytes to not have access to, but that instead they are masters at the basics. I'll share one of those basics now: build a network.
Seize the Fire!
I am having tremendous fun listening to Adam Nicolson's "Seize the Fire", a fantastic and really ingenious look into the battle of Trafalgar and what it had to say about naval history, the English (not the British!), leadership, and genius. I'm sure I could fill a dozen posts with the insights that Nicolson brings to bear, but one will suffice: Lord Nelson was insanely commited to his network.
Nelson As Leader
Nelson built an entire career around building and sustaining trust in his subordinate commanders, and by extension with all of the men under his command. Like some sort of 19th-Century Achilles, Jack Welch and Tony Robbins rolled in to one, Nelson expected the world from those around him, but also paid scarce resources of time and energy to ensuring that the needs of these men were satisfied.
Lord Nelson and Radical Commitment to Colleagues
This was not a mere matter of logistics, tack bread and lemons (read the book). Rather, it was a monomaniacal dedication to the soul-life of these men. He appealed to their honor, their avarice and their deepest drives. In short, Nelson became the most famous sea-captain in British naval history not by dogmatism and distance (although both were present) but by dogged and undeniable dedication to a network of trusted advisers and subordinate commanders. By means of that dedication, he was able to lead, mobilize, demand and expect respect, total loyalty, and crushing victories.
It All Begins with a Thought
But it had to start, my friends, with a philosophy of valuing and a practice of implementing an ever-increasing network of contacts, confidantes and colleagues. And that work, I can tell you, can never be shortcut. It takes painstaking attention to detail and determination to keep on meeting new prospects, for investing bit-by-bit in relationships that may or may not pan out, and to continue to dedicate oneself to the realization that the value of a man or woman is not in his or her individual successes, but in the aggregate value they can bring to bear in service of some greater ideal.
Start small, dream big, implement like hell. If you want more practical tips and a step-by-step on building your network, click here.