I had a great conversation last week with someone who had recently moved back to the midwest from the west coast. They work in technology and had some very interesting observations about the differences in midwest and west coast points of view when it comes to material things such as your home (where you live).
His observations were that we in the Midwest seem to be preoccupied on the address and the size of our homes. This was different from his experiences in recent months/years living in a few different “tech communities” in California & Texas. In those cities where the cost of home ownership is almost prohibitive, people paid no attention to the physical residence and did not even bother to ask. They did not care if you lived in a one room hovel if you were an interesting person and had something interesting to say.
This was interesting when he said it but even more so when I began to reflect on it from time to time the rest of the week. What the foundations/implications of this? Does this reflect the whole “Protestant” work ethic that has developed over the past 3oo years? Do we somehow place greater value on those who live in the right zipcode and devalue those who do not? Is this even a conscious thought or something that is somehow hard wired into our evaluation process?
Do we spend more time focused on evaluating people by their clothes, cars, homes, and other stuff than we do on getting to know them and figuring out who they are? The next time you are meeting with someone, focus only on them as a person and give no thought to their title, etc. See if you can have an engaging conversation based on personal connections instead of what they can do.
Young children are extremely egalitarian as they do not care where their playmates live or what their parents do for a living…all they care about is that they like the other child and that is that. Given that, it appears that this is more of a learned behavior since we do not exhibit the tendency from the very beginning of the socialization process.
Interestingly enough, the person I met with is quite a well known person the social media world but I did not really know that when I asked him to meet. He speaks regionally/nationally on the marketing/social media and is also regularly quoted in trade publications as well but took the time out of his day to hav a cup of coffee with me. His focus is simple and effective – meet & engage as many people as possible and pass along business to his connections whenever there is an opportunity.
You truly never know who you will run into if you actively engage others in conversations. Stay focused on who and not what. This is not a suggestion for the order in which to be interested, this is mandate that we begin to build relationships one at a time instead of in a broadcast fashion. Beware the guy in the flip flops and shorts grabbing a cup of coffee because he may your next boss!