There is an adage that business and friendship should never mix. One of my early mentors, a fellow who was instrumental in building Mister Rogers Neighborhood, advised me that he never does business with anyone he wouldn’t want to be friends with. I’ve adopted that second adage in my work on social change over the last 25 years.
In general, I’m obsessed with the human side of social change. I have worked in systems change for a really long time, and for most of that time, I believed that it was about finding the leverage, about analyzing the system to figure out what was wrong and what would address it. Remarkably though, that analysis absent the human beings who would actually make the change happen. I’m quite fond of those human beings, those partners, colleagues, friends who make this all worthwhile. This work is too hard to do without them.
One of my dearest friends and closest collaborators is Suzanne Biegel. She’s done a lot, ran Investor’s Circle for a while, invested in a ton of cool companies. She use to live in LA but now she lives in London, somehow that feels farther away. Nonetheless, she is a fellow traveler in my work. She’s an active co-conspirator. We’re on skype constantly. When I open my computer she’s one of the first names I see in skype. Just to see if she’s online.
Last week, I lost my cell phone. No worries. I was reconnected with it a few hours later. Then my computer was stolen. Uh. Well that didn’t actually work out as well. As I caught up with Suzanne the end of the week, she started the conversation saying that she lost her cell phone and crashed her computer. We joked, this must be some modern day equivalent of pheromones. If we worked in the same office eventually our menstrual periods would line up, but since we live at a distance, it’s our tech challenges that sync up.
There are systems that reach beyond the local, and we need to have the friendships that let us do work on those systems that span the globe. Tweet This Quote
This sense of connection is not incidental to our work and to our lives. Recently there have been studies about what creates life, rather than what causes death. A very good friend of mine, Gary Gunderson wrote a book called “Leading Causes of Life.” There are five. You can look them up here. The three I always remember are connection, coherence and a sense of agency. These are not simply good things, they actually create life, not just in us as individuals but in communities.
The other week, I spoke at the Neighborhood Economics conference in Louisville, Kentucky, that SOCAP and Parish Collective put on. Their argument, like the Slow Money conference that ran contemporarily, is that local really matters. It is about rebuilding local, reinvesting in local. It is through that sense of place that we make commitments that endure. I believe that is necessary, but not sufficient. There are systems that reach beyond the local, and we need to have the friendships that let us do work on those systems that span the globe.
We need to figure out how to make strong connections that are global. It is through these connections that we create coherence, the shared sense of direction. And through those connections that we feel the agency to act, to make change, to create something new.
So find your friends. And celebrate the pheromones that connect you, in whatever form they take.