In today’s hyper-connected culture we all have a lot of “contacts,” but authentic relationships are rare, which is why they are so valuable. So many times, you meet people who are just interested in talking about themselves or burdening you with their problems. I’m not talking about the times when you are in need. I’m talking about the times when people are exclusively consumed with what matters to them, which leads them to conclude others should be concerned with the same things. Those people rarely have a healthy relationship network.
There is a leader on my team who is what I call a "relational entrepreneur." He is one of those guys who knows everyone, and everyone knows him. He is incredibly valuable to us because he practices good relationship habits, and it pays off for him and others again and again.
You might think he is just about finding and starting new relationships. That's called networking, and there is only short-term value in that. This leader is interested in authentic relationships. After meeting someone, he can continue the relationship, learn and care about the individual, and over time provide them with relevant and valuable information. And because he has cultivated these relationships, they also invest in him.
Cultivate is a great word when you think about relationships. While many people use the word cultivate with slightly different meanings and contexts, I can tell you it means to invest, grow, and develop over time. That sounds like an excellent strategy for establishing, building, and growing authentic relationships.
Authentic relationships require a long view, just like investing for retirement. But before you jump head first into cultivating relationships, let’s outline the rules of engagement.
A FEW THINGS ABOUT AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS
• They are based on respect for humanity. The individual is the primary building block rather than a personal agenda.
• They are driven by a desire to connect. Humans were designed to be in relationship with one another from the beginning.
• They are grounded in the unique realities of the other person. You must accept people for who they are rather than who you want them to be.
• They are other-focused rather than self-focused. Good friends don’t make it all about them.
• They are propelled forward through meaningful interactions and encounters. You must add value to the other person; otherwise, you’re wasting their time and yours.
The greatest investment you will make will not be in your education, profession, or even your retirement plan. Those are all good things, but they are not the most valuable assets you will accumulate in your life. Those things come and go. What you are worth on paper, the size of your house, the brand of your clothes, nor the logo on the front of your car are as valuable as the people in whom you invest your time, wisdom, and experience.