Two weeks ago when I attended the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Gala, something really interesting unfolded as the night went on.
First, I ran into someone who knew me from my work last year with the Caribbean Tales Film Festival.
Then, I ran into a fellow Battle of the Sexes Show panelist.
Then, I ran into one of the girls I mentored at the Ladies on the Rise program.
Now, I don't write this to exemplify my overactive calendar and various engagements, but to highlight an important point that is relevant for Toronto, if not other areas of the world.
This place is too damn small.
These days, we no longer need 6 degrees of separation between us. Social media has played a major role in tightening circles, but even without that medium, I find that it's just too easy to know someone who knows someone who's connected to you in some way. As I do more work with my blogging, writing, speaking, and other community building projects, I see that this fact is crucial to remember in a business sense. In Toronto, everybody knows everybody - so being aware of that will help or hurt you as you move about on your hustle.
For me, this 1-2 degree of separation reality we currently live in means that I have to stay on top of 3 major components: quality of work, professional conduct, and personality. I'll break it down.
Quality of Work
I understand that we live in a microwave popcorn society, where it seems like the people who make the most flamboyant show of doing absolutely nothing get put on to fame and riches. I get it and I see it, but for me, hard work always pays off. I feel I'm neither the tortoise nor the hare; I've taken the best qualities from both and have created a new animal that is diligent, dedicated, and hardworking - but is also strategic and doesn't waste time jumping on great opportunities. I try to maintain that my quality of work is something I can consistently be proud of - I'm constantly learning and improving, but I try to remember one of Don Miguel Ruiz' Four Agreements that states to always do your best. Whether it's a blog post, a freelance piece, a speaking engagement, or an event - and whether I can do it with my eyes closed or it's my first time out the gate - I aim to do my ultimate best at it. No short cuts or excuses are allowed. When people link you with consistent good work, it will take you far. It may not happen overnight, but eventually you'll stop to look back and think, "Damn. I really did come up, didn't I?"
Not everything is going to go swimmingly. You won't get along with everyone or like their style of how they do their thing. Common sense is not common, therefore clashes in business are inevitable - but how you handle them is key. I got an email a few weeks ago from someone I was trying to do business with that had me ready to hit Reply and unleash a string of expletives in straight English and patois. I instead chose to vent to my husband, send some key friends "Can you BELIEVE what this MF tried to do?" text messages, and stepped away from my email inbox for a while. When I did respond, I did so in a way that clearly let the recipient know in no uncertain terms that I was displeased and no longer interested in working with them, but that could not be held against me as being over-the-top or unnecessarily harsh. When it comes to business, I will get in your ass just enough for you to realize the error of your ways, but will not give you extra ammo to play the victim role with. Now, if I ever did have to go there and really let someone have it? I'd have to take responsibility for any consequence that may come from those actions. It's not about being fake or a pushover, but it's also not about blowing things out of proportion or inappropriately burning bridges either. Toronto consistently reminds me that you never know who knows who - so I move about my day ensuring that I can always stand by anything I've done or said.
In a positive light, maintaining professionalism just adds to your reputation. When people feel that they can depend on you and communicate well with you, that will push you to the top of the list for new opportunities.
Hard work is crucial, and being professional is priceless. But if no one likes you as a person? You'll be hard-pressed to find success. I'm much more drawn to people who have some personality, kindness, and sincerity behind the resume and accolades. When you're aloof, egotistical, or downright rude, my immediate reaction is to overlook everything you do (no matter how well), and take you in for who you are.
At the Future Aces Gala, I ran into people from 5 different areas of life and business. Some of these people introduced me to other people who could be the gateway to new partnerships and opportunities, which is ultimately a blessing. Luckily for me, I have had all positive interactions with everyone I encountered, so I wasn't worried about how I would be perceived to the new people I met. Simply put, being nice is worth it. Making positive impressions pays off. Having a unique personality means you'll be remembered. Just ensure that you're etched in someone's memory for the right reasons.
Are you feeling the '2 degrees of separation' crunch these days? Does it change depending on if you work in the digital sphere or more face-to-face? What are your main tenets of doing business?