How to Meet the Most Important People In Your Life

Don't chase them. Just let them visit.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to be more successful and satisfied — and build a career or company you love.

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Today’s one thing: Collecting great people

That one thing, better: Attracting great people.

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We’re told that our networks are our most valuable resource. It’s true.

But that puts a lot of pressure on our networks. You might worry: Do I know the right people? Do I have the right mentors? How can I meet more of them?

Today, I want to offer a different way to think about your network — one that doesn’t treat it like some asset or a collection on a shelf, and that doesn’t feel like a failure if you’re lacking that perfect collaborator.

For me, this subject began with an email from a newsletter reader named Caitlin Condie. She’s writing a book about “life teams,” and wanted to know how I built mine.

She explains “life teams” like this:

It’s a group of people who support, inspire, challenge and encourage you in and throughout your life. The group of people who celebrate you when you're high, hold you close when you're low, and motivate you to be your best self.

It’s a lovely idea, right? But as I thought about it, I realized: I have no singular, fixed “team” — and I think that’s a good thing. Because when you stop worrying about who’s on your team, your team suddenly gets a lot larger.

Here’s how to meet the most important people in your life, told in two ideas...

1. People are visitors.

We love when people enter our lives. We often hate when they leave. It makes us feel bad — as if we somehow failed, as if relationships are meant to be permanent, as if endings somehow devalue beginnings and middles.

But what if permanence isn’t the point? What if people aren’t meant to be collected? What if everyone we know is just a visitor, and your job is to lower their barrier to entry?

Years ago, a friend introduced me to “the theory of visitors.” It seems to come from an essay by Sam Lansky, who either popularized or straight-up invented it. I don’t know. Either way, here’s the main point:

All relationships are transient. Friends who stab you in the back. People you network with at a fancy party. Relatives who die. The love of your life. Everything is temporary. People come into your life for a limited amount of time, and then they go away. So you welcome their arrival, and you surrender to their departure. Because they are all visitors. And when the visitors go home, they might take something from you. Something that you can’t ever get back. And that part sucks. But visitors always leave souvenirs. And you get to keep those forever.

I find this so appealing. You can encourage visitation, but you cannot control the visitor. They are visitors in our lives, just as we’re visitors in theirs.

When you think this way, you stop worrying about the shape of relationships. Should I be closer to this person? Can that person be my official mentor? Instead, you focus on what matters — which is how to be welcoming, and how to attract more visitors, and how to make the most of every visit, for however long that is.

And here’s the best part: There are so many visitors to come! Which leads me to my second thought...

2. People are TV characters.

I live with my wife and kids in Brooklyn. When the pandemic began, we moved in with my parents in Colorado, because they had a lot more space. Then we stayed for 18 months, because camps and schools operated better there than in New York.

When we finally went home, it was weird. Everything was the same, but different. Many of our friends had left. Others stayed, but their lives had changed. We had a hunch: Some of our closest friends will be people we haven’t met yet.

Soon, I came to think of our life like a TV show. Before we left — that was Season 1. Now we were returning for Season 2. 

Why this metaphor? Because, y’know, consider what happens in each season of a show. The setting is the same, but the plot advances. The cast gets a refresh. Main characters usually stay as main characters, but not always. Sometimes side characters are promoted. Sometimes new cast members take center stage.

I use this metaphor a lot now, and not just for covid. Life is rolling series of TV seasons!

People come, they go, they take different roles and levels of importance, and all of it contributes to the ongoing quality of the show. Sometimes I see friends and think: I’m lucky they've been a main character for so long. Sometimes I meet someone new and wonder: Is this person about to join the cast? Sometimes I'll reconnect with a side character, and we have the kind of conversation where I think, Is this their breakout season? And sometimes characters go away for a while, or maybe even forever, which is OK even if I miss them. Maybe their storyline ended, but they set in motion another one. Or maybe life is long, and their greatest role is yet to come.

All of which is to say: Your network is not, and cannot, and will not, be fixed. It should be in a state of constant flux.

Remain open to the possibility that people can and will always be added. Actually, let’s write that more actively: Remain open to the possibility that you can and will always add more people.

If I see the potential for someone to play a more meaningful role in my life, I explore that. My wife and I are proactive socially — if we like people, we want to see them. And I'm proactive professionally — if I click with someone's way of thinking, I reach out. I want to know what we can do together, even if it's just to kick around ideas or make each other smarter. And as I do this, I want to be mindful of the great role that my older, closest friends have. And to be open to how their roles might change, or grow, or meld.

But it won’t be perfect. It’ll be messy. I could fill this newsletter with the names of people I wish I saw more, or missed an opportunity with.

I don't have a strategy to any of this. I just have an attitude: An ever-changing life requires an ever-changing cast, and we're fortunate for the good ones who stay with us a long time, and also fortunate for the new ones who appear out of nowhere, somehow ready to visit for a while, to be the main character in the next season, as if it was a role they prepared for all their lives.

Don’t just build a team. Consider everyone a potential teammate.

That’s how to do one thing better.

Join the Zoom — I’m teaching storytelling!

Like this, but online :)

I get a lot of questions about storytelling. That’s for good reason — no matter what you do, you’re also in the storytelling business.

People understand you better with stories. It’s why you should tell stories to your colleagues or customers. To your clients or partners. Or on LinkedIn, in a newsletter, on podcasts, and more.

To help people tell stories better, I’m hosting a special Zoom workshop for the One Thing Better community.

My main point is this: You can use your everyday life to generate and refine stories — but you have to be tactical about it.

Interested? You can join the community here. That’s where I host regular calls and workshops, and readers connect with each other.

UPDATE: This workshop has already happened, but is now available on video for anyone who joins the community.

P.S. Did you miss last week’s newsletter?

It was about how failures can just be “accidental experiments.” Read!

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