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    Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

    I’ve focused on the area of relationship management for a long time. In fact, as the Co-inventor of ACT! Software, acknowledged as the catalyst of the entire CRM industry, I am a pioneer in the field. Since then, a lot has changed. There are more ways of connecting than ever before.  Continue Reading

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    CRM: You’re Doing It Wrong!

    There are CRM apps for all devices, some specific to certain industries, some that are built-to-order and others customized by the user to suit their needs. However, no tool on the market is a substitute for effective, consistent use. Continue Reading

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    The Real Key to Happiness

    At the age of five, John Lennon’s mom told him that the key to life was happiness. Thanks to a 75-year long Harvard study, we now know just how right his mom really was. Even though he achieved fame and fortune, it’s evident that Lennon’s primary pursuit in life was happiness.

    I recently watched a TEDx Talk given by Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study on Human Development, the longest of its kind. The study focuses on what makes us happy and healthy—and it’s neither fame nor fortune. In his talk, Waldinger broke down the study’s framework, as well as the evidence it’s gathered, and provides an interesting analysis on the true key to achieving happiness.

    The study began in 1938 with 724 men and followed them throughout their entire lives; it’s still running today with the remaining 60 men. Four generations of Harvard scientists intensely chronicled the lives of each participant. One group began with sophomores at Harvard, and the second group consisted of men from the Boston tenements. Their early-age aspirations were to attain wealth, become famous, and work hard, which these men believed would produce happiness.

    However, the study reveals a very different result. The only things that produced lasting happiness in the lives of the participants were their sustained close relationships. Interestingly, these relationships not only resulted in happiness, but overall better physical health, as well.

    Overall there were three key lessons that have been and continue to be learned about the value of closer relationships. First, social connections are good for us, and conversely, loneliness, which can be experienced by those in unsatisfying relationships, is toxic. Second, it is not about the quantity of connections but rather the quality. Third, the benefit not only extends to our sense of happiness but our bodies and brains are more protected as a result. Happy people live longer.

    No real relationships, whether they be personal or business, are automatically easy, nor do they become mutually satisfying without determined effort to stay genuinely connected. From the moment we are born to our dying day, we are social creatures. Failing to recognize and meet our social needs handicaps our personal potential for happiness.

    What the study doesn’t show is that there is anything wrong in seeking fame or acquiring wealth. What it important, though, is a clearer understanding that achieving those goals alone will not provide lasting happiness without also having close relationships. Those relationships require consistent effort, but how do we achieve them?

    In the book I co-authored with Max J. Pucher, Who’s In Your Orbit?: Beyond Facebook—Creating Relationships That Matter, we outline the four components of strong relationships: time, intensity, trust, and reciprocity. While it costs nothing, once spent, it is gone forever. Spending time with someone demonstrates his or her importance to us. When your connection with another is emotionally intense, it is by virtue a stronger relationship. Authentic relationships can’t exist without trust. It is earned in many ways, but most often by the time and intensity elements that precede it. This requires two-way effort, and where this exists, greater strength and value builds over time.

    Regardless of our personal goals, we can all learn from the Harvard study. Wealth and fame may bring satisfaction, but in the absence of relationships, they will not bring happiness. John Lennon’s mom was right about the importance of being happy, and this study makes it clear: The key to happiness is the quality of our personal relationships.

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    Data Is a Commodity—Your Relationships Shouldn’t Be

    Despite the commoditization of so much in our lives, relationships shouldn’t be categorized in such a way. People want to be recognized, and uniquely so. The prevalence of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, has enabled us to express ourselves online like never before. Isn’t it great that people are so willing to share more personal information about themselves? They provide us with a means to learn more about them as a result. More than ever before we’re able to gain knowledge about a person, and as such obtain a better baseline of who they really are. But having their information is one thing, what we do with it is another.

    Filling that gap between public (or pseudo public) information and the information we gather in person separates an acquaintance from something more meaningful. Filling that gap also distinguishes us from others, especially in contrast to our competition where the relationships are in their early stages from a professional perspective. After all, that same competition has access to the same information and therein lies your opportunity for a more meaningful and closer relationship. Toward this end, let me share three insights with you that are sure to help:

    1. Knowing the data is vastly different from knowing how to use the data.

    As I already pointed out, relationships will never progress solely based upon knowing information people post or share about themselves on social media sites. Whether or not someone likes to cook or whether they have traveled to a certain locale may be a starting point to a conversation, but it’s the connection two people make when exchanging information that drives toward a stronger connection. Consider how inspiring, motivating and encouraging it can be to read a great autobiography. You’ve gained information and insight the author chose to share, but do they feel connected to you as a reader? Most certainly not. Even when a conversation is dominated by one person sharing information with the other, when done in-person, both parties are more in tune with what is being shared and how it is being received.

    2. The data is most beneficial when it’s used to create a unique connection.

    Perceive the user-provided data as a starting point, not an end point. Fundamentally, what people share expresses their interests and passions. To form a mutual connection, there must be more than knowledge of their interest. Asking someone to elaborate on an experience or interest can be a great ice-breaker to a new acquaintance, but when you have something to add or share to the exchange, it is no longer only about them. It becomes a mutually beneficial exchange.

    3. Use the data you have as a springboard, not a hammock.

    Having an interest in others such that you investigated their posts has to go beyond that initial “share” in order to form a lasting connection. How? It’s simple! Get them to talk about themselves pertinent to something you already know about them. For example, it’s one thing to know that someone likes international traveling. You may like it too, even if you’ve yet to experience it. Regardless, express your interest in their interest and ask them where they’ve been, what they enjoyed about it, if they would recommend going there, and if so, what to see and do. It helps them “open up,” and more precisely it causes them to warm up to you. When people open up to others, the path to greater relationship value exists.

    Use technology and the streams of information about people as a springboard, not a hammock. Don’t be lazy in your effort to really get to know others. Take the initiative to you share more than a mutual interest. Consider what you have to offer, either personally or professionally. Your sphere of resources and influence, in other words your “network,” can set you apart from all the others vying for attention.

    Social media is mostly public media. Even the data you collect personally is still only data until you use it in a meaningful way. To do so, be genuine: Genuinely interested in what you can provide to others. Genuinely concerned that the relationship is mutually beneficial. Genuinely true to who you are as well. Data may be a commodity, but a person shouldn’t be.

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