Friend, Human, Marketer

Small world

The world is smaller than you think.

Even with billions of people on the Earth, our paths are constantly crossing with people we know in unexpected places.  It’s because of the many trails we leave: past friends from living in previous cities, former colleagues at old jobs, buddies from school, or activity groups.  We run our lives in smaller universes than we realize.  The LinkedIn / Kevin Bacon / degrees of separation game is very real.

It can be dangerous, if you forget to treat people well. More than one job applicant has been denied a position because word got around of his low performance three jobs ago, or because she made enemies who then found the ear of her hiring manager.  Of course the solution to that is pretty straightforward: do a good job and don’t step on people on the way.

It can also be delightful, when coincidences lead to chance meetings.  For example, my wife and I were up in Maine, hours away from home, celebrating our 17th anniversary.  While huddled around a firepit making s’mores, another guest peering over the flames said to me, “Are you Jeff?  Jeff Foley?”  It was my former coworker Victor, whom I hadn’t seen in almost two decades.  My wife burst out, “You took the very first picture of us as a couple!  We framed it and had it on our piano for years!”  It was true: one of the last times we saw Victor was on what was probably our third date, a going-away cruise marking an important transition for our company as it was acquired by a competitor.

These stories are always remarkable.  The guy whose new boyfriend turns out to be the neighbor’s best friend.  The dinner invite turned down that a couple realizes, a decade later, would have caused them to meet two years earlier than they did.  The Facebook “wait, how do you two know each other?” moment in which you learn a best friend from kindergarten went to grad school with a trusted coworker.  All because the world is smaller than you think.

We re-live our impact on others again and again.  (Just in case any of you needed more motivation not to be an asshole.)

Friend, Human

Heaven on Earth

Once I had a dream I was in the afterlife. It was a long white corridor with lots of doors. Behind each of the doors were rooms with different circles of my friends. Some were playing games, some were at a barbecue, some were just sitting in a room talking about nothing in particular.

I recognize it’s an introvert’s Hell but as an extrovert it’s my Heaven. And I try to recreate it whenever possible.

The last several weeks have been a series of mini-heavens. Anniversary and birthday celebrations. A weekend with 100+ friends (and 50+ new ones made) in the woods of Pomfret, Connecticut. A Patriots game. Evenings of board gaming. An evening of role playing games. A choir rehearsal. Watching great TV shows in the evening with my family. Lunches with past and future coworkers.

All ways to temporarily emulate that concept of never ending joy.

Friend, Marketer

One door closes…

An unhealthy number of good people I know are going through unplanned transitions now.  Their jobs were eliminated in a restructuring.  Or, their company finished a project and cut everyone involved.  Or, the new leader of their auditioned chorus did not invite them to stay after their re-audition.

Here’s what I have tried to remind all of them, based on my own experiences:

  • You’re good at what you do. You’ve just gone through a rejection.  You’re going to question your abilities, wonder whether you’re good enough, debate whether you should just chuck it all and do something else with your life instead.  While it’s worth evaluating what you like and don’t like about your career path, don’t let imposter syndrome chase you off of it.
  • It’ll work out.  These are not just idle words. Yes, they’re highly likely to be true — most good people out of work find something, it’s just a matter of time.  But even more importantly, they’re more likely to be true if you believe they’re likely to be true.  Interviewing from a position of confidence and strength, not desperation and worry, makes a huge difference.
  • Find other people to tell you these things. This is perhaps the most important, because no matter how much self-confidence you have, and how convinced you are that it’ll work out… it’s incredibly helpful to get validation from outside your skull.  Surround yourself with supporters.  Check in with colleagues who can reaffirm that they liked working with you, would work with you again, and will put in a good word for you should you need it.

Good luck, my friends.  There’s a joyful next step out there, just keep looking for it.



My version of heaven

If I ever make it to a heavenly afterlife, it will be a corridor full of rooms, and each room will be filled with my friends, and we’ll talk and laugh and play board games and celebrate being in each others’ presence, not even noticing as time goes by.

Oh, and maybe someone will bring us food, too, if we need that there.

I’ve woken up from that dream a few times, and I love it every time.

But until then, I get immense satisfaction from being a part of every little heavenly gathering of friends here on Earth. Oh sure, it’s an extrovert’s heaven, and probably an introvert’s hell, but as long as I’m dreaming, I’d like to think we each get our own version of paradise.