"Thanks for a great date. I’d love to see you again. Are you free Friday?”
“Great meeting yesterday. Here’s my proposal based on our conversation. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!”
Sound familiar? Nearly everyone has encountered one, or both, of these exchanges at some point.
Ghosting — or a sudden disappearance with no reply and no explanation — has been on the rise for years, and shows no signs of waning. We do it in our personal lives, after a first (or several) dates, but it has seeped into our professional lives, as well. Even after multiple meetings and customized proposals and pitches, responsible professionals will just completely disappear, without the courtesy to simply say, "Thank you, but we’re not a fit," or, "The timing isn't great." Instead, they leave the other party to pursue them incessantly.
Technology is the easy scapegoat, and it certainly is at the root of the problem. Technology makes communication easier than ever, which collectively lowers our value of the individual interactions. It also overwhelms us with the volume of pings and messages nagging for a reply each day. So we mentally block and prioritize, and, inevitably, there are winners and losers in that hierarchy of exchange.
But technology does not excuse this bad behavior, and not holding ourselves accountable is a lose-lose approach. Here are two main reasons why we continue to ghost and what we can do about it:
1) We have a false sense of our networks.
We value numbers over the quality of connection, and think that just because someone is a Linkedin contact or a Facebook friend, that that relationship doesn't need to be nurtured. But relationships are not a “one and done” operation. The digital point of connection is merely the springboard for the actual meat of the relationship. We’ve all had someone fail to respond to our personal correspondence, but continue to “like” our posts on social media. It’s maddening, to say the least.
Research indicates that both close and loose ties are important in building a valuable network, but we forget that close connections and loose ties alike require ongoing effort to continue to deliver value. Relationships, just like everything else worth having, are hard work. And laziness — however appealing in the short-term — yields an equally disappointing outcome over time.
2) We want to be wanted.
In business and in pleasure, we like the feeling of being pursued. Someone might reach out 2, 3, or more times, and yet we still don’t take a moment to respond and give them clarity. The time it takes to say “no thank you” is far less than the time and mental energy spent processing the on-going requests and pursuit. And yet, we continue to let others chase us. It feels good to be wanted.
Social media does us no favors in this department. Likes and follows fuel our ego, and we wrongly think that relationships are one-directional or can be turned on and off when beneficial to us. But relationships are two-sided enterprises. Valuable intros, time spent mentoring or consulting, or merely showing up to an event or always responding to a note — the cumulative effect of these small acts matters in the life of a relationship, but when only one party consistently holds up their side of the bargain, an imbalance ensues.
Sure, there are moments of great hardship or times when we simply can’t rise to the occasion — but most of the time, it’s not an emergency that fuels the ghosting. We all know people who perpetually embrace the “I’m busy” excuse and disappear, but don’t hesitate to ask for what they need when it’s beneficial.
So what's the solution?
For years I mused that I wanted a life sponsor — someone to help bankroll all my creative pursuits. A patron of sorts. Then I realized I had many, albeit in a slightly different format. Entrepreneurs seek funding from venture capitalists (VCs), but everyday people have investors, too. In my new book,Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, I talk about the value of creating "life VCs" — people in whom you mutually invest, over time, to create reciprocal relationship returns. But rather than check writers, they are our strategic advisors and unofficial mentors. They’re the individuals who make time to share life lessons and dole out advice. They include us in their lives and make introductions — or just counsel us when we’re down.
This isn’t just everyday networking. Enlisting life VCs involves relationship building that goes far beyond a business card exchange or a Linkedin request. These relationships evolve and experience varying degrees of intimacy over time, but for them to really work, the investment must be mutual, even if each party fulfills a different function at different points in time. It is a feedback loop of value in which everyone benefits — but only if they continue to participate.
And fair warning: Life VCs aren’t always obvious. The intro that leads to your dream job or life partner could come from a connection you least expect, when you least expect it. Which makes ghosting dangerous and myopic.
So as you navigate an already complicated 2017, put an end to ghosting. If not out of courtesy for others, then out of a selfish desire to maximize the human capital in your life. You’re far richer than you think you are, but cashing in isn’t free.
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!