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Building connections with people is important in anything you do

One of the many important things we do as human beings is to connect with people. From young, we learn how to connect with people. First, with out parents, then our friends, teachers, mentors. When we grow up, we connect with our colleagues, partners, children, and their friends. Our whole life, we connect with people. We are all part of a bigger community, and all of us are related to each other in some way. Think about Facebook. You may have mutual friends with some of your connections, and their friends may know somebody who knows you. Six degrees of separation.

If we sit down and reflect upon this, we will realize that nothing can be accomplished without a network of people. For example, getting a promotion at work requires not only your hardworking and successful projects, but also requires your clients to be satisfied with your projects too. This is a two-way street. Without the happiness of others, you may not receive the promotion. Similarly, without the clients, we will not be able to conduct a project.

I remember once when I was at a work conference at San Francisco. I was there to present my work on neuroscience and meditation. This is definitely a topic which sounds mystical to many people in traditional neuroscience. My former mentor once told me that if you have 5 people at your poster, you are very lucky already. Many people just swing by and only take a quick glance. As for me, I wanted people to know more about meditation and its benefits. Hence, for anyone that came over to my poster, if they stare at it for 5 seconds without making eye contact, I would make the first move to initiate a conversation and eye contact with them. As a person who does not like to talk much, and wanted my work to speak for itself, I took this opportunity to get to know them. I stepped out of my comfort zone. And some time later, I attracted a crowd. Not just any crowd of graduate students, but also professors and senior researchers. Many of them were so interested in the mechanisms behind meditation, and the experience of meditation itself. And sure, I explained meditation through the language they know: Science. Many were amazed at the work, and I got to exchange a number of contacts. We had great conversation about methods we could use for projects, and also angles to overcome a problem.

Such opportunities like this should be grasped as they may come only once in a lifetime. You may not see the person that passed by you ever again if you don't speak up. Who knows, one day they might require your collaboration with them, and this may open up new opportunities for both parties. Hence to create good affinity with other people, it is important to ask what you can do for them first, before asking what they can do for you. This is not just for business purposes, but also for personal growth. It shows your character and values in life, that you value friendship, rather than being acquaintances. Then, this creates opportunities for both parties to grow.

In the end, we are all inter-connected in some way. Like a spider-web, each person is connected to another person through another one. Breaking a connection with someone will break his connection with another person in one way. Although the web may be able to hold itself, it is not as strong as a complete web. Our connections are like the web. Shaking a thread will shake the entire web. Therefore our web should be strong, and big so it does not break easily. With a web that breaks easily, the spider will have a very difficult time to move around its web.

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