From the Vault #3 | Revisiting Social Capital Basics

From the Vault #3 | Revisiting Social Capital Basics

Our new From the Vault series examines episodes from The Art of Charm’s past more deeply; we invite you to revisit them — or discover them for the first time — with us. This From the Vault revisits some of our core social capital basics — value that gets created when you share the resources you have to help others. [Photo by Connie Ma]

Episode 469: Social Capital Basics was recorded in December 2015 and is part of AoC’s signature Toolbox series. Jordan, AJ, and Gavin Masters spent an hour discussing how to take networking from something you do to something you are.

How Jordan, AJ, and Gavin Met

It’s important to practice what you preach — and the way that Gavin, AJ, and Jordan met is a perfect example. Even though they were at a curated networking event with lots of “get to know you” activities, they connected after hours, and managed to get to become collaborators and friends because they were genuinely interested in getting to know each other, not in getting the quick fix of adding one more business card to their pack. (Gotta collect them all!)

Jordan emphasized that the groundwork for the connection after the event has to be laid at that event. Again, make sure that you’re not just there to get a bunch of business cards and then shotgun email everyone afterwards. Work on making genuine connections, which will lead to recognition and a much higher likelihood of engagement afterwards.

Okay, but How Do I Practice This?

AJ emphasizes that this isn’t just about how you act at an event, but really, how you live your life, how you interact with anyone you meet. Gavin added that “people are an opportunity to learn something interesting.” Ultimately, it’s about being curious. Everyone’s favorite conversational topic is him/herself — so listen, and as you listen, consider how you can add to their lives. Gavin points out that many people are quite passive when looking through their facebook feeds.

While scrolling, you might notice that so and so is visiting another city, or is taking a job in another industry, or thinking about putting on a particular event. Just use a tiny bit of effort to connect them to a person or place or thing that could be mutually beneficial. Now you’re actually filling in a gap. Now you’re adding value. And all it was was treating your facebook feed less like a television and more like an opportunity.

Don’t Be Transactional

The fastest way to kill authentic connections is to be transactional — that is, to give with an expectation of getting. Just give, give, give, and you’ll create and nourish an ecosystem and culture in which opportunities grow like fruit, and drop into your lap when ripe. Jordan shared that many people might send him “that one article” from Psychology Today, and while he appreciates it, being the person who forwards that isn’t necessarily a value add. He recounted getting a North Korean photo montage not only because it was something different, but because it was tied to the person and his individual relationship with Jordan. This is the beginning of priming…


Jordan told the story of a young AoC listener who used priming in order to position himself to add value. The listener’s name was Cory, and he started by introducing the name and work of a specific author to Jordan and simply stated, “If I can get this author to agree to do AoC, might I be able to sit in on the call?”

He asked the question nonchalantly, and was willing to proceed even if Jordan had said no. But since he had identified a pain point of Jordan’s (finding authors for the podcast) and explained how he was going to shortcut that (by doing Jordan’s prework on this prospect himself) it was easy for Jordan to say yes. Indeed, at this point, why would Jordan have said no?

As the interaction progressed, it turned out that the author was going to be in town and so the recording was going to be done live. Cory asked if he might take Jordan to breakfast and sit in on the episode live. Again, he was asking for something only when it was clear he could deliver. The result of this interaction? A win for all involved — and for the AoC family, we got the Dan Millman episode.

What Is “Social Capital?”

Gavin took a moment to define social capital as “value that gets created when you share the resources you have to help others.” More specifically, that sharing can be in the form of introductions, knowledge, and emotional investment. What the guys noted was that Cory had done an excellent job of blending all three of these. He made an introduction, shared his knowledge about a particular author, and connected via an in-person interaction. He also managed to do this in a non-transactional way, again because he was simply living in an ecosystem of giving.

Put another way, Cory wasn’t waiting for a specific time period to elapse before he would ask Jordan for a favor. This interaction occurred organically as the result of a genuine connection. Jordan agreed and pointed out that “If you’re thinking about ‘when’ you’re going to ask someone for something, you’ve already gone transactional.

Dump the Takers

Gavin took a moment to remind us that it’s also important to invest in people who share your values and worldview about giving. Takers are easy to spot and they should be jettisoned as soon as they are identified.

Is There a System or Do You Leave It to Chance?

It’s much easier to simply be yourself than to have google calendar reminders that tell you to interact with people. But, even those little reminders can give you insight. Jordan pointed out that for five years he would wish a happy birthday (via facebook and their helpful reminders) to people who were connected with him and he found that it was the high net worth individuals, the entrepreneurs, who almost always responded to his “Happy Birthday, what do you have planned/what is going on?” messages and it was only with a bit of prodding that some who had ignored his messages overcame their suspicion of his first message being automated rather than authentic.

Put another way, people can be put into two camps. The first camp might see a task as a series of processes. For example, getting a job would involve updating a resume/CV, applying to jobs, going to interviews, etc. The second camp would see the same task, getting a job, as a set of opportunities to navigate, like connecting with the hiring manager using LinkedIn, using their networks to find people in the industry to get better information from, etc. This second set of people consistently get results whereas the first set often are left not getting what they want.

NFL Sunday Ticket & Poker

Adding value doesn’t have to be the most amazing connection ever, it can be something simple. AJ pointed out that a lot of great connections came from his inviting people to his house to watch football simply because he had NFL Sunday Ticket and they did not. More recently there was another occasion in which a few friends had expressed a desire to get involved in poker and rather than simply passively taking that information in, AJ decided to sponsor a poker night, which has since become a huge success.

This is called opportunistic networking — people tell you what they want and need, and you create a platform to service that. In this example, it was solely the cost of buying some poker chips and the allotment of some time in his schedule.

Is It Possible to Overnetwork?

Yes. It is possible to network too much, and that’s when you replace your own value with the value of your network, and your exchanges become more superficial. A telltale sign may be when you are struggling to compose an introductory email, because the connections and value aren’t entirely clear (because you’re not going deep enough in your interactions).


How can you keep your social capital balance healthy (and growing)?

  • Renew and refresh your network by connecting people constantly
  • Remember to be curious and to be open — not just about people but about life
  • Practice empathy to expand your bandwidth and depth in connecting with others.

You may also be interested in ...