Ten years from now, your future self is yelling, telling you to do something now, telling you to focus on the most important thing to your future self’s success—investing in your most important relationships.
Your future self can see it clearly. Relationships are at the core of your future success. Some people let the universe determine who they know, who they will know, and how quickly the connections will be created. Others work a process, always moving incrementally ahead, one week at a time. Can you guess who has more success?
Think about the people who have made the greatest impact on your business and career trajectory so far. Not just the great, happy clients—what about the investor who wrote the first check in the angel round? The well-placed influencer who routinely steers business your way? Some people out there are looking out for you and, if they’re in the right position, can have a truly supercharged effect. What do all these people have in common? Why do they like you so much that they’re willing to go out of their way to help you succeed? For most people these relationships form mysteriously—things either click or they don’t. In reality, we have far more agency over our relationships than we think. You can create these supercharged relationships. It just takes focus.
The Protemoi List
So where do you focus your efforts? On your best clients? Your unhappiest ones? The people with the fanciest job titles? The people who actually say yes when you invite them to lunch?
The correct answer is: the people on your Protemoi List.
Protemoi (pro΄-tuh-moy) is Greek for “first among equals.” Your Protemoi List will help you invest in your most important relationships, whether you are actively working with them or not. Ultimately some people are more important to your success than others—your long-term success depends on this group. The Protemoi List captures those names and keeps them front of mind. Practicality Break: Pull out a pen and piece of paper (or open a new tab in your browser and bring up a Google Doc) and start writing down the names of the top seven to ten people who you think should be on your Protemoi List. Who could have the biggest impact on your business and career? Most high-level professionals will tell you that relationships are the most important contributor to success, yet they don’t systematically prioritize and invest in them. All too often they just try to juggle this stuff in their heads. Guilty of this yourself? You’re driving to work when you suddenly think, “I need to email Karim!” Then something comes up, and the email never gets sent. Five years go by, and Karim is named CEO. Now it looks pretty cheesy to email him. “Hey, remember me? The person who didn’t keep in touch? Uh, I just saw you’re now in a buying position at a client of mine. Want to go have lunch so I can tell you about what we do?”
There’s a better way.
Adding Value With Every Interaction
Now that our most important relationships are lined up and ready to go, what’s next? The Protemoi List is half the equation, but we need more. We want to make it easy for you to sustainably and systematically create positive experiences for each of your Protemoi people. In other words, make it easy for you to add value with every interaction.
Value can take many forms—a business book suggestion, an introduction to someone in your network, a link to the video of a relevant talk, an invitation to brainstorm on a problem they’re having over coffee. When you add value to an interaction through a tangible item like this, we call it an Asset.
Waiting for inspiration to strike before you reach out to the people on your Protemoi List doesn’t work. You’ll waste your time researching for something to send—digging instead of doing. This part of the process needs to be as systematic at first, so you can build and sustain the habit. The most effective way to do this is to maintain an Asset List, a list of items you always have at hand to quickly send your Protemoi contacts to create easy positive experiences.
Assets can be anything helpful or interesting to your Protemoi people. Although many people think of business items first, anything that adds value can work great, like information on hobbies, sports teams, and workout advice. Here, specificity is key. You can’t write down “workout advice” because it won’t spark a connection with who would enjoy what. Instead, you need the specific YouTube link to some great new drills improving your cuts for playing Ultimate Frisbee. That specific asset cries out for the specific people on your Protemoi List that would love it.
Practicality Break: Take out that pen and paper again (or reopen that Google Doc) and start taking stock of all the interesting articles, books, videos, and people you love. Start creating your Asset List.
When you diligently maintain your Asset List providing value to your Protemoi people will take only a moment’s browsing. Add ideas now to get things started, but after that, simply leave your list open during the day and get in the habit of adding to it as items pop up. Your Asset List will contain links to anything interesting: videos, books, articles or even people via their LinkedIn profile. Sometimes a document or spreadsheet won’t suffice. Personally, I use the cross-platform application Pocket to store my Asset List, but many software tools have similar features, from Google Keep to Evernote, with more options appearing every day. Choose one that suits you, your platform, and your working style. The key is to keep capturing. Your ability to add value to the lives of those on your Protemoi List drastically improves when you start diligently capturing assets. If it’s cool, capture it!
The people on your Protemoi List can have a supercharged impact on your business and success. It’s your responsibility to invest in them. Life will try to steer you away, but you can steer it back. You’ve got people you can be helpful to right now. You’ve got Assets ready to go. They’re waiting. Start with one outreach. Get going.
Now you’ve turned the key and cranked up your supercharged, value-adding machine. It’s fun. You’ll enjoy the process, and so will each recipient.
Oh, and your future-self enjoyed your new approach immensely and has calmed down. Basking in all your success to come, your future self is taking a well-deserved nap.