The Pillars of Success: Relationships

As social creatures, relationship and community are at the heart of our survival and success. Throughout history and even today, those without a tribe don’t tend to farewell. Building relationships is the process of developing critical social connections. It’s a fundamental skill and the basis of reputation and influence. Being good at relationship building is not only important for living a happy fulfilled life, but also what enables us to close deals, get the gig, and move our careers forward.

Relationships - A Pillar of Success

The Lifecycle of Relationships

There are many types of relationships – family, romantic, friendly, professional – but with the exception of our first family relationships, nearly all of them begin as transactional agreements.

Transactional relationships, the “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” type, get a bad rap. We think of these as insincere, maybe even selfish, versus what we consider to be “real relationships” – those based on intimacy, and emotional connection. But really, the transactional portion is just the beginning of the relationship life-cycle.

We connect with others in a give-and-get agreement (which is almost always unspoken) and the relationship grows or fizzles from there. The things we are giving and getting aren’t always quantifiable. In personal relationships, they may be things like a sense of belonging, emotional support, excitement. But the truth is, we don’t or at least shouldn’t stay in relationships where there is no give and take. As an example, think of how many times people say of estranged family members, “I can’t be around him anymore. I don’t get anything out of the relationship.”

Often, relationships that begin as very transactional grow into something deeper. We should aim for developing these deeper relationships, otherwise, we end up with a network that is a mile wide and an inch deep. But not every connection we make is destined to become close and lifelong.

Why do some relationships grow, and others die on the vine? It’s complicated and different every time, but Will Smith has great advice: “Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your thing, work hard, and the right people, the ones who really belong in your life will come. And they will stay.”

Analyzing Relationships

There are already hundreds of personal development books written about how to build relationships and grow your network. But a good place to start is to look carefully at the relationships you already have. These three steps can help:

1. Make a list

We all have multiple networks. Make a list of all the people in each of your circles of influence. These may be fellow musicians, people from church, school friends, workout buddies. List everyone with whom you have a relationship.

2. Identify the basis of the relationship

For each person, or group of people, write down what your relationship is based upon – is it a common interest, a common goal, mere proximity? What do you give in these relationships? What are you getting?

3. Focus on service

Now, for each group or individual, think about how you can best serve. Maybe you need to do more to foster those relationships, maybe nothing is needed, or perhaps you need to do less. Sometimes, we discover that we cannot serve people in any meaningful way, in which case you might want to consider how much energy the relationship is requiring, perhaps the best thing to do is to walk away.

We all have limited time, energy, and effort. To build truly successful relationships, we must make sure that we are focusing those resources on the places which will do the most good for ourselves and others.

Why waste your precious energy on relationships where all you do is give and give and get nothing – not even the satisfaction of making a difference? Likewise, why bother with relationships where you take and take and nothing you have to give is wanted or needed?

This is part of our series on the pillars of success. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.