Trimming the Fat

There are hundreds of blog posts written on the value of networking, but people don’t talk as much about the downside of networking; like spreading yourself too thin. The past two years have been transformative for me all around, but the best thing I learned was how to “trim the fat”. To cut out anyone in my life that does not add value, does not help me to grow, learn, and does not treat me as I treat others – I treat everyone as if they’re my most important client. When I wrote “30 things I’ve Learned in Thirty Years”, the most commented on item was,

Cut the fat. In your personal life, cut out people who don’t add value. In your professional life, do the same. No one should ride your wave unless they’ve helped to create it.

In my professional life, I made this black and white. I developed a list of traits that people I associated with in business needed to have. Those that didn’t encompass that ‘criteria’ were slowly moved to more of an acquaintance. Those that met the criteria below were and are the people I surround myself with. I suggest you look over this criteria and engage in the introspective process of developing your own. It will likely be very different from mine; but sort through your business relationships and ask yourself – do these associates fulfill me? My criteria is as follows:

1. Must be brutally honest (notice the word “brutal”). I want to know when I do something wrong and I don’t want to “corporate/politically correct” statement, I want the hard truth. Tough Love is crucial for me to move forward.

2. Must be able to ‘look in the mirror’ honestly. I want people who know themselves, their strengths, and weaknesses, and most importantly – “know what they don’t know” and not be afraid to admit it and ask for help.

3. Must hold themselves and those around them accountable. I’ve been in many situations where people ‘move up the corporate ladder’ by playing the game; not necessarily contributing to the bottom line of the company. Results oriented with an understanding of process is what I need.

4. Must not “work to live”, but “live to work” or at least be individuals that work because they love it, not because it’s forced on them.

5. Must have an understanding of the importance of communication skills and ‘treat everyone as if they’re the most important client’. Nothing irks me more than people not showing up for meetings, phone calls, etc. If you’re unable to attend, it happens – but communicate as soon as you realize.

6. Set Expectations

7. Be real – be the same person personally and professionally. One thing that I’ve found constant is people’s values and ethics. If someone is phenomenal professionally, but cheats on their spouse ( for example ), how could that person ever be loyal to you?

8. Push others to better themselves. The smarter and more ambitious those around you are, the better you will be. Bring out the best in one another.

I had always done a decent job of doing this in my professional life, but not in my personal life. I’m an extrovert and dive head first into conversations, meetings, and new friendships with the mindset that everyone can add something to my life; we can learn from each person you meet. I also committed to myself that I would be an open book; what you see is what you get. What that turned into was hundreds, maybe thousands of people who were ‘friends’ or people who expected me to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. A couple years ago I realized – I would have to make changes. It was okay to have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of “friends” as inevitably the ones that really DID matter to me – my closest friends – were not receiving the treatment I wanted solely for them; not for everyone else. I was too busy.

So I trimmed the fat. I looked over my group of friends and I asked myself, “who could I not live without?” It sounds a bit dramatic, but when I look over the people I surround myself with, my life wouldn’t be the same without them. This doesn’t mean I speak with them everyday – some I do, some I don’t – depending on how we’ve communicated to one another how we expect our friendships to work; but bottom line – I DO treat them as if they’re my most important client.

So ask yourself – are you spread too thin? Or are you able to treat the people who are most important the way you would want to be treated. If you’re not, take a moment and decide; who is worth the time and how do you trim the fat of your friendships and business relationships.

  1. January 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    A very self aware list. But to be honest with you, I fail to qualify for at least four of those, and yet I don’t seem to be part of the fat? =)

    • January 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm

      Ha – you’re a trip. You’re also not a “business relationship” – and YOU made that clear ( ;

  2. January 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    No, I guess I am not a business relationship. I didn’t realize it applied only to that.

    • January 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      It doesn’t. It applies to ‘friends’ too, but as a ‘friend’ – I happen to think you’re pretty good at all those things. No???

  3. January 9, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Love #2. “Know what you don’t know.” That’s important, and really, really hard for a lot of people to accomplish, personally and professionally. I try to work on that… 24 hours a day.

    Actually, 2011 should be a big year for me because for once, I intend to stick to my own set of criteria resolutely. Great observations Jamie. Glad I got “clued in” to your thoughts over the past week or so. 😉

    • January 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Interested in your criteria ( ; Man am I nosy! But I always assume that people are going to come up with something different for me to add to MY list! So while selfish, I guess this is an example of ‘checking ego at the door’ too.

      As for “knowing what you don’t know” – how ANNOYING is it when people are adamant about things outside of their scope of knowledge. Attempting to be right “just to be right” really could put me over the edge depending on the DAY and PERSON!

  4. January 9, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Wow!!! I love it!!!! The old “ball and chain” syndrome!!! If we have to drag our friends or our clients or even our kids “kicking and screaming all the way”, then better let them fall by the wayside.

    Do whatever you can to help your business clients, friends and even kids and relatives, but at some point, you have to recognize that not all are going to make it and better apply the medical principles of triage to those relationships.

    Otherwise, as you so appropriately observed, by spreading yourself too thin, you end up helping no one, including yourself.

    Keep up the good work, Biz!!!

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

    • January 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      Ah Doc! My “wiser” man across the globe! I love the intelligent way your brain works – I would have never thought of “triage” as anything more than an ER term, but when I looked up the link, I found that these 2 definitions made so much sense:

      2. A system used to allocate a scarce commodity, such as food, only to those capable of deriving the greatest benefit from it.
      3. A process in which things are ranked in terms of importance or priority

      Keep teaching me DOC!

      Are you on SKYPE?

  5. January 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    My wife and I often joke that we’re “not accepting applications for new friends,” since we already don’t spend enough time with the people we like. And even though I’m an extrovert, I’d rather spend time by myself than hang out with people that I have to entertain, or who bore or otherwise irritate me. (Which is why I live 2500 miles from family, heh.)

    • January 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Jake – that is hysterical as I’m the SAME WAY. I’m an extravert’s…”when I’m in the mood” when it comes to friendships. Isn’t that awful? I’m an extravert’s in that I derive energy by being around others, but…sometimes I don’t want to be energetic and frankly – being with my husband is MORE than enough! No new applications here either. That may be a good website….hmmm….and BTW – if / when we do meet in person, you BETTER tell me when you’re sick of me -hahahah – because I assure you I will do the same. I like your wife already!

  6. January 11, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Great and thoughtful post. After starting my business, all kinds of people wanted to suddenly meet with me and catch up. However, I found that most just wanted to talk to me to experience the freedom of leaving a job and starting something new vicariously, but not do it themselves or support me on their journey. While my list is not as well-thought out, I do have a decision tree as to who I schedule in now and who I defer (sometimes indefinitely). When you decide to make big changes in your life and you’re growing personally and professionally, you’re forced to only keep the people who can keep up with the speed of change.

  7. January 11, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Hi Tracy and thank you for visiting! I just went to your site and immediately thought 2 things: 1) I have someone I would love to connect you with. She is an unbelievable career coach and also understands the need to make affordable (which is rare!). She customizes programs based on different criteria, but candidly – she’s fantastic and the 2 of you can probably work together as she is on a major project right now and I know she would love to ‘sub contract’ or outsource to people who agree with her “accessibility / affordability” model. I subscribed to your blog and looking forward to the learnings!

    In reference to your decision tree, it is nice to know that a) someone is having or has had a similar experience and b) I’m not the only one “anal” enough ( ; to attempt to make a concerted effort to ‘put people aside’. Is your decision tree “in your head” or do you work on “gut”? Reason I ask is because for me – the only way I was able to be “non” emotional (not only listen to my gut) was to write it out. One of my biggest weaknesses is ONLY listening to my gut and I think there’s a happy medium there.

    You also mentioned something that I am going to ADD to my list of criteria (thank you!) and that is keeping up with the speed of change. I like that one a lot – thank you.

  8. January 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Jamie,

    This is a great post and I agree with your criteria. I will say though, knowing you as I do, that it’s important to note that you have a ridiculously large network and a virtually endless capacity for engaging with people. And no, folks, this is a woman who literally never sleeps:)

    So for the rest of us needing to pare down our network, the urgency may not quite be there!

    • January 12, 2011 at 4:06 am

      Ha. You only ‘think’ I have high capacity because I give YOU so much time because you crush the criteria ( ; I have been more overwhelmed over the past month than you know or I would ever tell you!!! I assure you – the urgency is there.

  1. January 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm

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