What goes around, comes around. It's a phrase etched into our psyche at a very early age. Reciprocity. It's the basis of religions, ethoses, and behavior. And it has proven itself as truth over and over throughout history.
I'd like to take a different approach in this article when thinking of the circle in a professional and personal context.
Many of us, especially when under pressure of time, think and problem-solve linearly. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? So why wouldn't you want to get straight to the answer as quickly as possible? However, I'm a big believer in crowdsourcing answers to my questions whenever possible. Sure, there may be an answer that has worked in the past. But is that always the best or most efficient or most comprehensive answer? Reaching out to my circle allows me numerous options, one of which might exactly or more comprehensively answer my question than the one answer that has worked, but may not be as deep an answer that I seek.
Having a "circle" of trusted professionals who are just as passionate and exacting as you has been an invaluable resource for me both personally and professionally. Reaching out to my trīb (my circle) gives me peace-of-mind knowing that I have support in a pinch and that a dogpile will ensue any time I have a 911 and need help fast.
Many people forget that networking is about quid pro quo and reciprocity. Sure, I'm happy to meet you and hear about your fabulous life. But, ultimately, I want to be able to provide value to you in any way I can, but low-key expect the same in return. Living in LA has snatched the Band-Aid right off the whole networking paradigm. It's definitely about whom you know here and how your contacts can benefit the other person. While the intent can be a bit nefarious at times, I can't hate on the practice at all. If you know someone intimately I'm having difficulty getting to, you can bet your ass I'm ready whip out my most prized baseball cards. I'll happily trade you my bestie from college who is directing the film you would die to be in. And didn't you date the VC dude who loves small companies just like mine? Let the games begin!
The purpose of networking is reciprocity. Don't be fooled. Growing your network happens when you provide value AND receive it in return. If the balance shifts to only give, terminate to contact. If you're not getting as much as you give (in any relationship) it's time to move on because your value is being exploited. Give to get. It's the rule.
One of the things I'll be teaching in my upcoming workshop "The Business of Being a Top Executive Assistant" is that you have to create your own secret squad of ninjas. These are the people from every part of the organization who can help you get shit done in record time, line jump you to the front, and backchannel information that isn't prime time.
At every company I've worked I've made it a point to create, befriend, and service my work circle of ninjas. They typically include: the janitor, a less-than-Senior member of IT, the CFO, the one person in HR who was a rebel and DGAF, a member of the Board, the building's security staff, the Head of Catering, and any Assistant whom I could tribe-up with immediately on projects with full confidence in their abilities and reliability. That is a squad I would pull together and provide as much value to them as I could, especially since I typically supported the CEO. I'd take the time to learn a bit about them, especially their favorite food, candy, booze...whatever! And make sure that a little present ended up on their desk anytime I had an emergency or needed something done RIGHT NOW and they'd dropped everything to help me knock it out.
Having a circle of ninjas (read: allies) at work, especially when your work involves all things time-sensitive, is the best way to create those miracles most people could never pull off.
Inside of this circle there are no corners to hide.
Every line I follow leads me back inside.
Gravity pulls me from the center every time.
Gravity pulls me from my center every time.
These are lyrics from a song called "Circle" by one of my favorite musicians Allen Stone. It's a great song, one that I listen to often as a reminder to embrace the circle, specifically the nucleus, which is ME. I am the nucleus of everything in my life. When I'm pulled from my center through external obligation, responsibility, expectation or accountability, I'm really only partially effective. If I'm not completely in tune with myself and have my own, undivided attention, I'm officially off my game and a shitty nucleus.
You have to realize that in order to be present for others you have to be present for yourself. You should be able to operate in life completely without the need for validation of anyone else in order to feel whole. Where we get into trouble is when we lose sight of our own hopes, dreams, and desires in order to fulfill the wishes and whims of others and using that as validation in our own lives. Doesn't quite work that way. Not if you want to be happy and whole. Fulfilling your own needs first allows you the clarity, self-care, and focus that will fuel how you show up for everyone else.
There's nothing sexier to me these days than the word "nope." Especially when I hear it and know it's because someone is prioritizing their own needs for self-care over my whims in the moment. I've also gotten really comfortable saying "nope" to requests for my time, especially where there is no reciprocity involved. Sure, I'd like to help people with their whims, but not at the expense of my needs and self-care. Especially when free time is at premium in my life because oh, I don't know, I'm building a soon-to-be multi-million dollar brand of my own, planning a travel year that's about 36 weeks on the road, helicoptering care for an ailing parent, writing a second book, helping friends grow their soon-to-be billion-dollar valuated business, and trying to maintain some semblance of sanity while spinning so many plates. My time isn't free, because I have no free time. Boom. #reciprocity #iwillsolveyourproblemsandyouwillpayme
I know when I'm "off." And instead of ignoring it and soldiering on, I stop and take the time needed to get back to my center. That requires a whole lot of "nopes," a whole lot of silence, and likely a whole lot of champagne, shopping for perfectly white tulips, or vegging out watching slow-mo YouTube's of Roger Federer's forehand or anything CrossFit related. (Buttery Bros!!!)
Get back to your center. Every time. It's where your power lies. If you are the nucleus of everything in your life, protect, nurture, and empower yourself first so that you can emanate light, energy, and badassery in every direction from your center.
Sometimes the answers and outcomes you seek aren't linear. They require thinking outside the box, figuratively. Approaching problem-solving in degrees vs. angles has helped me succeed wildly over the years. It's why my resume looks like Swiss cheese. I've crafted an insanely well-rounded personal and professional life filled with experiences that many can only dream about. And it's because I've always known that my superpower is helping others succeed by succeeding for myself and exposing myself to absolutely anything that interests me. I continue to learn and expand my circles of knowledge, networks, experience, industry, friends and experiential partners. I can reach out in absolutely any direction from my center and find what I need in record time because of my circle(s) of ninjas. And as the nucleus of everything in my life I've mastered returning to center, taking the time for self-care, reaching out for help when I need it, and getting back to ME, so that I can be there wholly and with intention for others.
Embrace the circle. And leverage it for your success in all aspects of your life. Embracing and empowering yourself as the nucleus is what makes everything in your life work. Don't take it or yourself for granted. Because others are happy to.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.