Perfecting Strength: It’s All About Connections

A Critical Doer works as hard to develop strength of character as strength of talent                                                                                                         

No man is an island unto himself

John Donne


My power is perfected in weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9


Everyone wants to be strong.  We all fancy ourselves the rugged individualist portrayed by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, or the personification of the “self-made man” that Frederick Douglass made famous in his historic lecture.  Making it on your own is absolutely possible…but in the practical world, you may need to reframe your definition of “on your own.”

Take a look at the two quotes I’ve used to open this post.  In John Donne’s poem “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, he makes it clear that people are connected so that when one dies, to a degree we all die.  The converse of that is with success; connection is just as valid and necessary to advance beyond the present.

In the Apostle Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 12:9, he poses the paradox of weakness being the source of strength.  He also makes it clear that because he cannot do everything for himself, which would make him the center of life, he must turn to the source of spiritual strength and through that connection live with confidence in facing the hardships that build character and produce hope (paraphrased Romans 5:3-5) or act to take advantage of a new opportunity.

To accomplish anything meaningful in life, we all need connections…and for most of us, making connections is an unnatural act.  The reason is simple and it’s the biggest mental hurdle to clear in effective networking…undervaluation or omission of your own contribution to help someone else be better.

Many times people have approached me to make a connection and ask for help.  Many times I’ve listened to a one sided soliloquy that espoused a belief that the connectivity John Donne and the Apostle Paul wrote about is a one way flow.  Some will help you simply because they can or it’s the right thing to do with nothing in return; not all will and the truth is you need to connect with people who aren’t 100 percent philanthropic in using their influence to help you.

Taking an “equilibrium” approach to making connections is far more effective and also reconciles your own sense of self-pride.  In an equilibrium approach, you make an argument where the connection produces a win for everyone.  It’s obvious that getting a job is good for you, but clearly showing how you can help the company be better than it is today makes a more compelling case…and both sides win.  Gaining a new customer is obviously good for you, but carefully explaining how your product or service can improve the bottom line is better…and everyone wins.  Connections through participating in civic organizations is good; commitment to making the place you live better makes it real and increases the chances of connections leading some place good…and everyone wins.

Your challenge is to take a candid look at the effectiveness of your own networking.  The two questions to ask are (1) whether you can connect to people that can help you reach personal goals more effectively than being an island unto yourself, and (2) can you add value to someone else’s efforts in return so that probability of success increases and your own self-pride stays intact because you have benefitted others.

Remember, humility is a strong character trait and it takes strength to admit you can’t do everything on your own.  But let me put a slightly different twist on connections, borrowing from the rhetorical pattern of Paul in the Romans scripture:  from humility comes connections, from connections comes adding value, from adding value comes opportunity, from opportunity comes success.  Put this in action today and increase your capacity to get things done.  It’s what a Critical Doer would…do!


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Updated: August 16, 2015 — 3:09 pm