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How I Flunked My 10-Year Reunion

...And Why I'm Happy I Did

I recently attended my 10-year high school reunion and couldn't believe just how much I’d forgotten over the last decade. I consider myself a very intentional person, but I was blown away by how many names, people, and events had completely slipped my mind.

One event that baffled me to no end was when I found out I had wronged someone I cared about in the fall of my junior year. Apparently, I didn't stand up for her when I should have, which hurt this person’s feelings because she considered me a friend. My lack of conviction made a lasting impression on her.

Here’s the weird thing: I barely remember that happening. Even when it was explained to me, my memory was still hazy.

But for the person whom I had hurt, it was fresh in her mind. And my actions, or lack thereof, had shaped her perception of me for the last 10 years.

What this means is that people are constantly forming opinions of us from daily interactions we may or may not remember. And that’s a little scary.

But it should also be motivating.

Based on the sheer number of interactions we have every day, there is a high probability that there are people whose last memory of you may be negative.

That last memory, without a doubt, shapes how that person perceives you, your work, your beliefs, and more.

As I've started on this journey of helping people do work that matters and attempt to do it myself, I've realized that one of our greatest human assets is relational capital. Not only are we created to be in relationships with others, but our careers, families, and basic mental health depend on the creation and cultivation of community.

This isn't always true but I think people who succeed are generally the ones who are well liked. People want to follow big ideas and brands but they also want to affiliate themselves with a leader they trust, someone they could sit down with over dinner.

You obviously can’t please everybody. And it’s impossible to go through life with everyone you meet becoming your friend. But here’s a tip:

Pretend every interaction you have with someone is the last thing they will ever remember about you.

Your brain can’t keep track of every conversation, so get it right the first time. You’ll never know how that small interaction will shape the future.

And if you've wronged someone, or even think you have, and you’re pretty sure that’s the last thing they remember, go fix it. Today. Create a new memory for them.

Bottom line: You want people on your team - people who like you. This isn't about people pleasing, but about building the foundation of success with the bricks of relational capital. It is one of the most important tools you have for inspiring others and making a real impact in the world.


Photo Credit: Thompson Rivers, Creative Commons

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