Your Network Determines Success More than You Realize by Dave Lu

I am an extrovert. I love meeting new people. As a result, I have been very fortunate to build an extensive network. The older I get, the more I realize how much this network has helped me get to where I am today. People underestimate the value of networking in their success. Most would say absolute success (vs. relative success) is the result of a combination of talent, hard work and luck. If you don’t have any talent, you are unlikely to offer anything of value to others. If you don’t work hard, you can’t hone your talent and build something of value. And even if you have all the talent in the world and you work non-stop, you need luck to get you exposure and opportunity. I would add that building the right network can increase your odds of success. In other words, you can create your own luck when you have a strong network.

I was inspired to write this post after coming across this article Before Social Media Killed Hollywood Nightlife in the Hollywood Reporter. I was fascinated by seeing all of these young actors cavorting in L.A. clubs before they became famous celebrities. I wondered how many were already famous before these photos were taken and most were still unknowns at the time (circa 2001). You can see a photo of a young Jason Momoa ten years prior to his breakout role as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones and now the billion dollar Aquaman. There’s a photo of Scarlett Johansson who wouldn’t have her breakout role in Lost in Translation until 2003. It would make sense if they were already celebrities that they would run in the same social circles, but that was not the case. It seems like too much of a coincidence that so many of the photos show so many young actors and actresses together before they made it. Obviously these are selective photos and there are probably dozens of others with people who didn’t make it big, but the fact remains that these future Oscar-winners and blockbuster movie stars were connected before they were famous. One must wonder to what degree they helped one another get there along the way through introductions and access.

Just the other day, I was visiting the Gauguin exhibit at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. I noticed that Paul Gauguin was friends with Camille Pissarro and it struck me how many of the masters were socially acquainted. I always thought that it was an odd coincidence that the great Impressionists were all friends (and they were most definitely not already famous at the time). In fact, most of them were rejects of the prestigious Paris Salon and were forced to exhibit their work at the Salon des Refusés (French for exhibition of rejects) in 1863. Paul Cézanne briefly attended the Atelier Suisse with Camille Pissarro and in 1862 became lifelong friends with Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet. In 1894, he visited Monet in Giverny who introduced Cézanne to Auguste Rodin and critic Gustave Geffroy. Once again, it clearly is too much of a coincidence that all of these great artists knew one another before they became famous. A week after I saw the exhibit I came upon this timely article: Artists Become Famous through Their Friends, Not the Originality of Their Work. This interactive network diagram from the MoMa demonstrates the power of connections with Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso in the center. The study performed by Columbia Business School professor Paul Ingram and his colleague Mitali Banerjee, of HEC Paris, found that “artists with a large and diverse network of contacts were most likely to be famous, regardless of how creative their art was…Specifically, the greatest predictor of fame for an artist was having a network of contacts from various countries.”

Obviously it’s hard to know whether these groups of friends would go on to succeed the way they did, but they clearly were talented. All of this assumes a minimum base level of talent in order to succeed or even be accepted into the network. I dreamed of being the first Asian-American NBA star as a ten year-old. But it wouldn’t have mattered how many NBA scouts, GMs or owners I knew, because I didn’t have the physical talent or basketball IQ to be Jeremy Lin (although I did have a mean jump shot). The point is that in order to improve your chances of success, you need to invest in your network. Your network can grant you access to opportunities.

Read the full article @ Medium

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