David Burkus

David Burkus: Unleash the Power of Your Weak Ties (#168-169)

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Our guest today: David Burkus

David Burkus (@davidburkus) is a best-selling author. His newest book, Friend of a Friend offers new perspectives and tactics that teaches you how to better network and build key connections. These insights are based on human behaviors, and often are overlooked and misunderstood.

Turns out, the low hanging fruits are the connections you already have, the old friends, which social scientists call them weak ties, or dormant ties. 

Within days of speaking with David, I started reaching out to my own network via LinkedIn, Facebook, and some contacts right from my phone. I received responses right away, and most people responded within 24 hours. 

When you leave a job, some of you best connections at the time shouldn’t just vanish with the job. 

 

Show Notes

Part 1

FriendofaFriend | Feisworld
  • [02:00] How did you run a podcast for 8 seasons/8 years?
  • [04:00] How was the process between the end of the podcast in September and the release of your new book in May?
  • [06:00] Your website drives people directly to each of your different books. Was that intentional? How did you decide on the design?
  • [08:00] How did you come up with the name of your last book?
  • [12:00] How does your team look like?
  • [16:00] How did you get your first contract for a book?

Part 2

  • [25:00] You practice Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, are you still competing?
  • [27:00] Do you feel there’s something special about practicing a martial art, training, group work, and your discipling at work and as a creator?
  • [30:00] What triggered you to write about the exchange between communities? What was your experience behind that?
  • [35:00] Your books ARE backed by science and studies, unlike all other ‘advice’ books out there that come from personal experiences. What are your thoughts on that?
  • [38:00] What are some of the people comments/reviews about your book? Do you check that often?

Favorite Quotes

[20:00] What I look for an idea for a book now is that blend between social sciences, practical applications, good storytelling, but the other thing that I try to do is use social science specifically to correct things that are common sense but are wrong. Creativity is a great example of a lot of stuff that what we do and what’s common sense it’s actually counter to what we know from science.

[32:00] You can’t have a purely egalitarian network where everyone is connected to everyone. You need clusters. For people to get better, they need some level of community. For everything there is balance. You need to be able to be bridging to other communities to find those new ideas, both to bring them to your cluster but also to potentially know it’s time for you to move…

[36:00] This is where I think a lot of people feel weird. They are trying to apply someone else’s advice, who is very different from them, and then they are experiencing that feeling of feeling not like themselves. Because they are literally pretending to be someone else, by applying  that other person’s advice.

[40:00] It’s still is what you know, and also who you know. And that’s good news because you are in control of both of those things. The stories of that person that was born into this incredible networks, those are more rare than the stories of people, figuring out that it’s a matter of the community I’m a part of, so I need to be intentional and take this seriously. Those stories are more common, and they see who you are as good news.

Transcript

Part 1

(Part 1). David Burkus Unleash the Power of Your Weak Ties.m4a: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

(Part 1). David Burkus Unleash the Power of Your Weak Ties.m4a: this m4a audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Fei Wu:
Hey. Hello. How are you? This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after Top 1% of the world. We dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung heroes and self-made artists.

David Burkus:
What I look for in an idea for a book now is that blend of social science and practical application, good storytelling. But the other thing that I try and do is use specifically use social science to correct things that are common sense but are wrong. So creativity is a great example of a lot of stuff that what we do and what's common sense and the way we talk about it is actually counter to what we know from science, right? You can't have a purely egalitarian network where everybody is connected, everybody. You need clusters for people to get better. They need some level of community. So for everything there is balance. And so you need to be able to be bridging to other communities to find those new ideas, both to bring them to your cluster, but also to potentially know it's time for you to move. This is where I think a lot of people think it's sleazy and inauthentic and weird as they're trying to apply someone else's advice who's very different from them. And then they're experiencing that feeling of feeling not like themselves because they're literally pretending to be someone else by applying that other person's advice. It still is what you know and also who you know. And that's good news because you're in control of both of those things. Right. The stories of that person that was just sort of born into this incredible network, etc.. Those are more rare than the stories of people figuring out that, okay, it's a matter of the community that I'm a part of and the network that I'm a part of. So I need to be intentional and take this seriously. Those stories are actually more common and they see that who, you know is good news. And I think we all should.

Fei Wu:
Hello Feisworld Podcast listeners, thanks so much for tuning in on a new episode of Feisworld.. If you're new to the show, welcome. I'm so thrilled that you're here. We're gaining a lot of new listeners, so I should sure introduce myself in the show. Hi, this is Fei Wu and I'm the host of the show. We started Feisworld Podcast in 2014. At the time, the goal was simple. We wanted to pick really interesting people and celebrate the stories of unsung heroes and self-made artists. Since then, I started my company in January 2016 called Feisworld.. I am a digital marketer and a freelancer. I absolutely love what I do. So in addition to these podcast episodes, I have also spent some time focusing on productivity, leadership and generally how freelance works for people who are interested in learning more. And recently we've gone through some of the category changes and our goal is to help you find episodes you will love quickly. So if you're new to this, head on over to Feisworld dot com for Slash podcast. We have six key topics. Have fun in your job. Build a tribe reflection and transitions ideas that spread live your art and finally pay forward. So we try to categorize each episode under 1 to 2 categories at the most. And this episode you're about to hear with David Burks will sure fall under ideas that spread. So who is David? David Burks is a best selling author, a sought after speaker, and his newest book, Front of a Friend, which I'm a big, big fan of, offers new perspectives and tactics that work for you today on how to better network and build key connections.

Fei Wu:
These insights are based on human behaviors and often are the ones that are overlooked and misunderstood. For example, turns out the low hanging fruit are the connections you already have. The old friends, social scientists call them weak ties or dormant ties. Within days of speaking with David, I started reaching out to my own network via LinkedIn, Facebook and some R contacts on my phone. I received some responses right away and most of them turn around within 24 hours. One woman even asked me, just reaching out and reconnect. That's that's great. People aren't used to it yet because they haven't realized how important it is to actually keep in touch. So when you leave your job, some of your best connections and your friends at the time shouldn't just vanish with the job. Another quick announcement before we get started. Feisworld Podcast is now releasing new episodes every Friday. Yes, on Fridays, because some of our listeners mention the freedom they feel on Fridays, and that's when they would love to tune in and catch up on podcasts. So without further ado, please welcome David Burks to the Feisworld podcast. And remember, this is a two part episode and part two is available right now immediately. So don't forget to keep listening at the end of this episode. Now for part two with David as well. Much love. I'll see you at the end of the show. What I'm super impressed about by you, David, is that you've been running you were running a podcast for about eight years, eight seasons before I listened to the last episode, which you stopped in September last year.

David Burkus:
Yes. Yeah. Eight years. Eight years and eight seasons, actually. Yeah, we were. I actually like to think this is I have no real credibility I can stand on in terms of podcasting in a world of people like Jordan or like Gimlet and Radiolab and all of those folks. However, I'm pretty sure I was one of the first people to start using the season than episode numbering system as opposed to just podcast number 100 and whatever, right? So yeah, so it is it's the eight is eight seasons. People ask me like, oh did you, do you, did you did 800 something. No, no, I did like 120. But it's just every year we change the season number usually because between like Thanksgiving and New Year's, we just didn't do anything because it didn't make any sense to record getting people tracking people down to do episodes. That sort of stuff was just crazy. So and then we will probably come back with a new show in September of that one around one year after putting the other one on pause, will probably come back with something. It's just as you can imagine, launching a book gets so busy that you're like, I just can't do my show and then also do all all this other stuff.

Fei Wu:
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And you did talk about in your last episode of this the idea of the sabbatical, which was much needed. How did that go? I feel I listened to all your TEDTalks and all many of the and not all the interviews, so there are so many. And I noticed peop so far people haven't really asked about the sabbatical and sort of the transition and process between September until the release of the new book in may, which is where we are in right now.

David Burkus:
Yeah. Yeah. No that's interesting. I mean it is actually, it's funny you mentioned it in the context of the TED talks and stuff because by far in under new management, the idea that got the most traction was the salary, transparency and that kind of stuff. However, the one I wish for people's work and career would get the most traction is that sabbaticals idea. And I would say the whole really the whole process of launching this this book because it's such a different topic, has been like a sabbatical from under new management. The first thing we did in September was basically nothing for for a while, maybe actually not really for a while, probably about three weeks. And then we went into I tried my hand at a virtual summit. It was the third time actually I've done it virtual, which is essentially a collection of video interviews, which are very different than audio interviews because you have to worry about so much more and editing after the fact is so much harder. But it kind of wanted to play around with that and see and really it was a way to explore what do people think when they think about networks. It was called the Super Connector Summit, and the whole idea was to gain a bunch of people that are speaking in the space, but also learn about what are people thinking, feeling, acting when they think about connections, relationships, networks, communities, all of that kind of stuff. And that was sort of the precursor to, okay, now we now have a better idea of how to how to launch this new book, Friend of a friend. So it wasn't a sabbatical in the sense that we took a little bit of time to do sort of nothing and then we got right back to work, but on a very different project. And the irony is that now we're less than a year, more than six months. And I don't know, I think whatever project follows this new book, Friend of a Friend will also be in line with that networks, communities, relationships, connections, that sort of thing.

Fei Wu:
That's awesome. I mean, I've been doing digital marketing for over a decade at this point and something I feel truly passionate about from design development to user experience. And I was really impressed by your site and just how clean it is and how the main call to actions is. And I want to be creative and in this case I want a better network. So I think it drives to all three of your books. And was that intentional?

David Burkus:
Yeah, I mean, actually it was. So it's funny, most I had nothing to do with most of the design of the site. I work with Joseph Hanson and his team at ALT think group to to do the site. However, one of the things I wanted to tell them, you know in, in in website design right now and in marketing etc. one of the things that's really popular is that sort of above the fold call to action. But one thing a really bugged me, which is that almost all of them, you look on almost every sort of personal branded site, there's an above the fold, get this thing right and then there's a box that you're supposed to type your email address into. Right? And I think that's a little weird right off the bat to be like, Hi, give me your email address before we decide whatever. So I wanted to do something a little different in that regard. And then the other thing that happens is that I'm one of those writers that has sort of intellectual ADHD, right? The first book was on creativity, the next was on leadership and management. Philosophy is the next was on networking. Like you can't just have one little piece that calls people to action to get this one specific download.

David Burkus:
So that's that was the reason for for divvying up like that. And you click on those and it's not actually it doesn't take you to the book. It takes you to a bunch of resources that are either mentioned in a book. Or are sort of derived from one of the prior books. And then we get into, okay, so now you've seen what's actually beneficial to you. So now would you join the newsletter community and all that kind of stuff? But yeah, that was so it was sort of my take, maybe not being a traditional marketing guy on a I think a better way to do that above the fold call to action that I'm the irony is that the opening phrase is that how can I help you? And it's also a question that I hate when people ask in the context of a networking relationship where, like you meet somebody for the first time and you ask that the difference is I only have three ways that I can help you. So I feel a little bit more comfortable asking that to people who drop by the website.

Fei Wu:
Yeah, for sure. I think finding your niche is important and clearly for you as you're writing more books, I think your niche also expands quite a bit. But you know, I was going to say the way I read your I have not read the first two books, but just by reading, you know, a friend of friend intrigues me to read the others one, the other ones as well. But how did you come up with the name? Because I know that sometimes that's the most daunting thing to do. It's like all these people from around the world like, Oh yeah, we give you ideas on that.

David Burkus:
So titles are agony, They really are. So the only I should say the of the three books that I've written, the only book that kept the exact same title from when we pitched it to when it actually went to print was the miss of Creativity my first book. And truthfully, I think that has more to do with the fact that that book was published through John Wiley and Sons, and they're kind of a hands off publisher to some extent. So I kind of feel like it was because nobody bothered to push back on me under new management was originally had the incredibly terrible name of post cubicle era. So the the idea was that we everybody talks about the industrial era and then the post industrial era and but the post industrial era was the knowledge work era where everybody was in cubicles. And so this was like the idea of more giving more autonomy to workers that are going to be able. So that's where it was a terrible name. It was awful, but it worked for the proposal. And then we we signed that deal and they wanted to change it to something like throw out the rule book or some very I don't know, I didn't like it all that much. And we just we went back and forth and back and forth and probably burned through 200 suggestions before we settled on under the management. Now, why do I tell you all of that? Because friend of a friend was a little bit easier in that process.

David Burkus:
Still agony. When I originally pitched the idea to Houghton, the working title was How We Connect, which I actually still really like. That was the the idea was to write a book that is about how we all connect to each other. But the other big idea in the book is that it specifically takes all of these insights from network science and targets networking advice and shows what's wrong about a lot of networking advice, what you should be doing instead, etc. So we needed something a little punchier than just an explanation of how we connect. So for the longest time we switched it. We also knew that we wanted to sort of hang the book on a peg that already existed in networking lingo, so it had to already be a phrase. So for the longest time we were going with who you know, that the book was literally going to be called Who You know. And the whole idea was that who, you know, is important. It really is. And it's not bad news. Who, you know, is actually good news because you are in control of who you know. The problem with that one is that it was a very like it was a very sort of salesy or career only. And there were insights in the book that go beyond that. So we really struggled with how do we make this applicable to kind of everybody. But the fortunate thing is we didn't have to go around 200 times like we did with the management because we knew like, okay, it has to already be a phrase that's in people's lingo when they talk about connections and relationships and all that sort.

David Burkus:
So we only have like ten things to go with. And finally we ended up settling on a friend of a friend. I all of that to say it was also not my idea. It came from not just not my acquisitions editor, but the publisher of the imprint. So his boss basically and I remember actually when it came, when it came down and they threw it out and they said, Oh yeah, he really likes friend of a friend. And I said, What do you mean by he really likes Do you mean he would really he likes this suggestion and we have to do a really good job selling him on something else. Or do you mean the conversation's over and this is, this is going to be the book title. And so it was that was it. It was his idea. And we basically decided not to push back on it. And then as as I started rewriting the introduction, the conclusion and really working on how are we going to market this book and what are the phrases going to be. I started to really actually love it. But yeah, it works on so many levels that I'm just fortunate. There were people I don't know smarter than me, better than me at picking titles that that second time around because it was still agony. It was so much easier than the first time.

Fei Wu:
Hi there. This is Fei Wu and you are listening to the Feisworld Podcast today on the show. Welcome. David Burks, who is a best selling author and his new book, Friend of a Friend, offers new perspectives and tactics that will work for you today on how to better network and build key connections. I do have a lot of questions for the book, but somehow this whole behind the scenes has always been what I find most fascinating. Clearly, you have publishers and a team of people, editors there, but you also clearly have a web team creating, I don't know, Legion resources and people and social media. Like, what does DAVIES team look like?

David Burkus:
Yeah, I mean, it's not to steal a concept from friend or friend, which is actually stolen from a different book. It really is kind of a team of teams, right? And my job is just to be at the center coordinating all these different teams. So, I mean, to give you an idea. So I have actually a relatively simplistic business model. I'm not this Tony Robbins like figure with 11 different businesses and all of the stuff around this person. There's me as a writer and then me as a writer fuels primarily advances and royalties from writing and speaking. And then there's a little bit of additional revenue from different stuff, like online courses or other ways that things have been licensed. But it's really not it's not a focus. It's just something we sort of experimented with, didn't really work out the way I'd like. So in that there's essentially three teams to keep all on one page. So the first on the writing side, there's a team in terms of my literary agent and the people that also work for him and things like foreign rights and what have you, and then Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where I'm sort of a house author with them. So the the editor, the publisher and all of the people that are at home are usually working with me from book to book. It's it's kind of the same team from book to book. So that's the writing team. But then a totally different team is the team that represents me for speaking, and that's a company called Bright Site Group as my primary agency that I work with. There's four or five people on that team that work with me.

David Burkus:
And then, like you said, there's the web design team and that's kind of a mix of contractors that we hire and then also people that kind of advise. The big thing with my career is that my my role model, my template, the person that I'm trying to emulate, I'm unabashed of saying is Daniel Pink, right? I joke often that I'm trying to be the next next Daniel Pink. He's like 20 years older than me, so someone will beat me to that title and whoever that is, I'm going to be the next her. But one of the reasons I said, okay, if this is the business model, I like this the type of books that I want to write, I want to go figure out who's on his team. And so at the time, his marketing guys web presence, all of that was a guy named Tim Grill who was a really good friend of mine now. But Tim actually sold the web design company that he started and worked with then. And so Tim sort of advises it, but then I also work with the company he sold because they're the people that have all of his sort of intellectual property, are familiar with his method. He sold it to his employees. It's like it should be one team, but it's actually a team of multiple different people. So you have three. If you picture it like a hub, you have three spokes coming out from that. But then even then there's people who are not technically employed by that company who are also on the team. Right.

Fei Wu:
Wow. I think what you're explaining is really quite interesting. But, you know, Daniel Pink actually came up very recently, if I remember correctly. He's a gentleman who does like this 1 to 2 minute video every day.

David Burkus:
Yeah, well, not every day, but he does the pink cast about every week or so. Yeah. And that was and you know what's funny is that stemmed from a like there was a time where the author business model was awesome. You went off and you hid in a cave for like three years and you wrote a book and then you went out and marketed the book for a year or two and then you went back to your cave and wrote the next one. And there was so much kind of there were so few people doing it compared to now. I mean, when I published my first book, there were only 2 million books listed on Amazon.com. Now there are eight, right? So just in that time frame alone, we had this huge But so back in that era, you didn't really need that many people in your team and you didn't need to have a regular sort of presence. But over time, because of actually people like you said, Gary V Jld, all of those sort of folks, you realize that to stay sort of relevant now, you need to have at least some piece of regular drift content that your fans are enjoying. So he and I remember having a conversation with with him about this at his house, talking about how is he running his newsletter. And it used to just be recommendations of articles that he liked and what have you. And we talked a lot about this pink cast that is short kind of 92nd to two minute videos with tips that go out. But it's basically his way of of kind of trying to still hide in the cave while also having a little bit of content because you do have to sort of stay top of mind.

Fei Wu:
What is your origin? What is your origin story when it comes to publishing three books already working on the fourth and a podcast for eight years, you study creative writing in college and but what was the first how did the first book become a book? How did you get the contract?

David Burkus:
Yeah, Yeah. I mean, I was I mean, I grew up thinking I was going to be a writer, right? So I actually grew up in a, in an artistic family. So my brother was a musician, had was always in a band or multiple bands. Right. My sister was in a musical theater, still actually works. And and I was the writer in the family, right? So we each had our discipline. We didn't compete, but we each had this sort of artistic discipline, except when I was a kid. Writer meant essentially that you were a fiction writer, right? I went to college thinking that, and the big. Existential question. When you're 18 years old and you want to get involved in writing is, am I going to be James Patterson or Ernest Hemingway? Am I going to be like, poor but brilliant, or am I going to be rich and a sellout? Right. And no idea that there was this whole world of nonfiction outside of textbooks. So then when I'm in college and you start to get exposed to more genres, I was in college when the tipping point actually came out, and the tipping point changed my life. Not because there's all of that many amazing things in it, and actually a lot of the science is wrong. But what changed my life about it was the fact that he was a person who was an incredible storyteller, every bit as good as a literary genius in terms of novelists, etc., in Gladwell, but was also writing about social science and things that were a little bit more practical, useful, interesting, that affected people's everyday lives.

David Burkus:
That was the first time I'd ever encountered a book like that, and that made me think like, Wow, okay, this is actually what I want to do. So unfortunately, there was only about a semester, a year and a half, like three semesters left in college, so there wasn't too much time to switch and suddenly suddenly study psychology and all this other stuff. So I graduated. I went to graduate school for organizational psychology. The thing that is off of my LinkedIn bio and all that sort of stuff that I think people have to know is that I also got married. I got married the day after college graduation, which I don't recommend, not because I didn't just it's a logistical nightmare because you've got like all of this graduation stuff and then you've also got to slap together a wedding. But we did that because my wife was going to medical school three months later. So we wanted like maximal amount of time as a married couple before I was only ever going to see her at like at night, right? So I went I went to I went to work and I went to graduate school nights and weekends, pretty much right off the bat to study organizational psychology with this whole idea that I'm going to write books in this genre.

David Burkus:
And so I did that. And after two years of that, I got bored because I graduated, got a master's degree and still had two years left on my wife's med school. So I got bored again. So I went back to school and started pursuing a doctorate. And it was it was during the the doctoral work that I got really deep into innovation in particular and actually was doing my, my dissertation on it was a qualitative research dissertation on what are the stories that presumably non creative companies tell about the process and what are the stories that industrial design firms and ad firms and those sorts of things talk about the creative process. So that then became sort of the mix of creativity really. In the end, the only stuff that's in the mix of creativity that was in the dissertation was the literature review section that we basically got. I was also writing for a bunch of different sites. The biggest one was I wrote for 99 You back when that was like the site for creative professionals.

David Burkus:
And so I was writing for that and that's what led to the first kind of couple of emails from a literary agent who also represented Scott Barry Kaufman and Heidi Grant Halverson and a bunch of people who wrote for 99 you and at the time sort of the only book that we that was ready, the only idea that was like we could turn around in a short period of time was the stuff from this dissertation. So that became the miss of creativity. I don't know that I intentionally wanted to start with a book around creativity, innovation. Most of what I look for in an idea for a book now is that blend of social science and practical application, good storytelling. But the other thing that I try and do is use specifically use social science to correct things that are common sense but are wrong, right? So creativity is a great example of a lot of stuff that what we do and what's common sense and the way we talk about it is actually counter to what we know from science. Right? Under new management was sort of the same way it was praising all of these counterintuitive management practices through psychology to show you these are actually a better idea than what best practices are.

Fei Wu:
Hi there, It's me again. I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode, and I hope you were able to learn a few things. If you drill what you heard, it will be hugely helpful if you could subscribe to the Feisworld Podcast. It literally takes seconds if you're on your mobile phone, just search for Feisworld Podcast in the podcast app on iPhone or an Android app such as Podcast Addict and click subscribe. All new episodes will be delivered to you automatically. Thanks so much for your support.

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Part 2

(Part 2). David Burkus Unleash the Power of Your Weak Ties.m4a: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

(Part 2). David Burkus Unleash the Power of Your Weak Ties.m4a: this m4a audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Fei Wu:
Hey. Hello. How are you? This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after Top 1% of the world. We dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung heroes and self-made artists. Hi there. This is Fei Wu and you’re listening to the Feisworld podcast. Today on the show, welcome. David Burks, who is a best selling author and his new book, Friend of a Friend, offers new perspectives and tactics that will work for you today on how to better network and build key connections. You know, I was so excited about your book because I think, honestly, it is the core of my my own existence. And it’s a very much of a reflection. And the purpose now has become ever more clear to me when it comes to podcasting. I’ve only been doing it for three and a half years, but the amount of connections I’ve built, the opportunities that basically presented themselves are precisely what you’re just talking about. It’s really fascinating. Another area I can’t believe it took me this long to do this because whenever you meet a martial artist, you feel like that could consume the entire recording of the podcast. I very quickly realized that you’re Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner competitor, or do you still compete, by the way?

David Burkus:
I have not so in I have not I haven’t competed in about a year and a half in December of 2016, I think I broke my foot, but I was doing a hip throw on somebody and rolled my ankle in such a way that I broke my outside metatarsal. It’s actually called the Jones fracture. It happens a lot in basketball, but it happened because I was trying to lift up somebody I really shouldn’t have been trying to lift up and throw down. And so that happened, I think, in December of 2016. And I haven’t competed since then, but we’re still I’m still practicing it regularly, still there three or four times a week.

Fei Wu:
I say that one that’s exciting. And two, I noticed there are traces of martial arts, philosophy and thinking in your writing. But I also think there are a lot of parallels between martial arts and particularly this book front of a friend and the networking impact that to me with social media, with mobile phones and everybody looking down, I feel like martial arts is potentially the most intimate exercises. And you know, and also there’s a lot of teamwork involved, like how we work with one another, how we prepare ourselves before a fight, how not just the meditation part, but learning about each other’s quirks and behaviors. And it’s really fascinating.

David Burkus:
Yeah, I mean, fundamentally, it’s one of those areas and I would lump for the for the sake of argument, I would lump wrestling and a couple of other sort of derivatives of fighting sports in with this. But it’s it’s in general, it’s the only individual sport that also feels like a team sport. You’re competing individually, but you’re not alone when you’re in the ring. Right. There’s this whole group of people that you’re training with and sweating with every day. There’s a group of people that I mean, your goal is to defeat them at the same time you understand the mutual benefit and and well being and in front of a friend. Actually, we talk about one of the most potent things, like one of the big messages in the book is you have permission to skip every networking event ever from here on out. As long as you’re investing in what the sociologist Brian Uzi calls shared activities, things where there is that draws a diverse group of people to do something other than connecting that thing is high stakes, meaning there is you can win or lose and and it requires you to sort of coordinate as a team. And almost every practice works that way. You can’t really practice a move. I mean, there are you can do like you can work pads and that sort of thing, although even then, you know, you need someone to hold the pads for you.

David Burkus:
But almost every eventually you’re going to have to spar. You’re going to have to roll, as we say, in jujitsu. And that requires another person and that requires a level of trust, but also a level of coordination and sort of intimacy with them, that you build a relationship with them faster and deeper than you would if that same person was sitting across from you at some networking mixer. Right. Because you’ve got all of these things in play and it draws a diverse group of people. I mean, I’ve met some of the most interesting people like this is a weird you don’t normally meet that diverse group of people at the country club or at the cocktail party or at a dinner party or anything like that. You kind of only meet them in an activity even even most sports kind of have where in the socioeconomic ladder they are. A sport like tennis doesn’t really draw a lot of blue collar people. Right. But you jitsu for some reason, martial arts in general draw people from every rung of the socioeconomic ladder, which is awesome from the standpoint of getting to know a more and more diverse set of people.

Fei Wu:
But you’re absolutely right. What people don’t realize is that I too I mean, until this day, I’m turning 35 in less than a month. And I look at literally my network of people and so many of them belong still a part of my martial arts family since I was 18. And this is incredible. And also what that provided me with, like you said, is people perhaps some are younger, a lot of them or older than me at the time, and they knew a lot of things. They were in so many industries I wasn’t any part of. And the most significant factor I found for myself is after graduation 2223, you know, all your friends dispersed to anywhere else in the States and you feel alone. And I had a solid network of my martial arts friends. We’re still all right there in Boston who helped me introduce me to numerous opportunities, help me with that difficult transition because I’m also not a US citizen. So. Very few opportunities were even available to me. So that was incredible. Just reading your book, that was the one thing I was like, Oh my God, you know, you see all the dots connecting.

Fei Wu:
There are so many topics in your book that have been explored on many other podcasts, and there’s one thing that really kind of caught my eye was seek out silos was something I really struggled with, and I know there’s a bit of a dichotomy there as well, because when I used to work at digital agencies, I noticed there were so many silos created even within the creative area. Like designers didn’t necessarily respect copywriters and they, they all struggled. They all fought with the developers. But at the same time, I noticed by belonging to a certain community, I watch my mom as an artist being part of a group of many artists and they share the work, They share new techniques, stories. Many of them are a lot less experienced than my mom, and there’s that cross-pollination going on and it can be also very helpful. So what are some of the ideas you had in mind while writing about that and what triggered you to write that?

David Burkus:
Yeah, I mean, I guess the big thing that triggered to write it was there’s a couple of different studies demonstrating that. So so in practice and practice language, we use the term silos to talk about the different divisions of a company or the different little clusters of in network science language. They use the term clusters, right? That as people gravitate towards each other, they form sort of a cluster. And a network is really just a series of linkages between clusters. And if you if you think about it from the lens, if you grew up in that sort of corporate space where you know that silo silos, politics, turf wars, they’re all sort of bad things, it was really surprising to find this body of research that said no, actually for for ideas to spread. You can’t have a purely egalitarian network where everybody is connected, everybody. You need clusters for people to get better. They need some level of community. So for everything there is balance, right? But you do actually need kind of a community of practice, a group of people that you can have more in depth conversations with sociologists. Ronald Bert uses the term and Dorie uses this term too, so I know you know it, but bonding capital, right? There’s bonding capital and there’s bridging capital and you need both.

David Burkus:
You need a small cluster to have that bonding capital to grow, to have the honest conversations about where you need work, to have people giving you honest feedback about how to get better. You need that community. You can’t stay in that community. And that’s where the bridging capital thing comes in, because most most of the genius ideas in in a world, in a marketplace, in corporations, in life in general usually come from when an idea migrates from one cluster to the next cluster. And it’s seen as a novel new idea to that cluster. That’s how information spreads. It doesn’t spread perfectly smoothly, egalitarian through this interconnected network where everybody knows everybody. It moves from cluster to cluster and gradually gets adopted by more and more people. And so you need to be able to be bridging to other communities to find those new ideas, both to bring them to your cluster, but also to potentially know it’s time for you to move to another one. The analogy that I’ve learned to use to describe this and unfortunately I learned it after or I thought of it after I published the book, is that clusters and silos, communities like that, there’s sort of like a harbor, right? There was a time where the only thing that kept the entire world interconnected was ships and trade routes.

David Burkus:
Right? And there was a harbor. You need the harbor. The harbor is where you restock. The harbor is where you repair, where you find new crew, where you get better at certain techniques. However, if you stay in the harbor your entire the entire life of the ship, you’re not connecting the world. You eventually need to set sail and get out and go to another another harbor, another community. So you need both in your life and like a lot of things, not like martial arts in general balances that is that key. You’ve got to have a balance between being in that silo and not. And I think unfortunately, the majority of especially networking advice right now is just talking about diversity, diversity, diversity, diversity. And that’s important definitely is. But you can’t just only have this such a diverse collection of people in your life that there is no no one that you can have an open, honest conversation in your practice and your field of study, of field work about how to get any better.

Fei Wu:
Mm hmm. Yeah. And I love when you mentioned that the connection between different clusters as well. Hi there. This is Fei Wu and you’re listening to the Feisworld podcast. Today on the show, welcome. David Burks, who is a best selling author and his new book, Friend of a Friend, offers new perspectives and tactics that will work for you today on how to better network and build key connections. One thing, I think as part of your writing, why I love your writing. Stephen’s writing, Doris, is the fact is the balance between sharing examples of other people versus your own reflections. And to to take another step further is, you know, science versus opinions. There are a lot of books are based on like almost the author’s own opinions, which can be also very interesting, right? Like fiction. So it’s purely, you know, but a lot of the I think what I like about yours is it is backed by science and studies and examples. What are your thoughts on that?

David Burkus:
Yeah, well, I mean, that’s the goal. So it’s specifically actually inside of networking. There are pretty much every book that is out. There is a book of advice. It’s one person or two peoples advice on Here’s how I did it, or the slightly more compelling I wasn’t doing this. And then I did do this and it changed everything, right? But they’re both they’re both that sort of personal story. And that’s great. But like, my background is in social science, that’s what we would call a sample size of one. You can’t get published for discovering a new amazing phenomenon with a sample size of one. You just can’t come back when you have 249 other people. Right. And and compare and do the same intervention and compare the people that you did the intervention to to the people that didn’t. And what are the differences over time like the placebo control idea? That’s that’s science, right? And that comes from a collection of different stories. So, you know, those those individual advice books are great. I mean, the sort of CEO memoir type of book is great for finding really cool stories that illustrate a point, but they’re an anecdote. And until that that anecdote has a couple of hundred other people who have the exact same anecdote. You don’t really have a trend or anything that you can define.

David Burkus:
I mean, the problem with most of the advice books is that they might be good advice for you if your background matches that person and your situation matches the situation they face, then you are. If you’re very similar to that type of person, then their advice is worthwhile. If you’re the polar opposite of that person, then their advice is probably useless to you. And I think again, to go back to networking, this is where I think a lot of people think it’s sleazy and inauthentic and weird is they’re trying to apply someone else’s advice who’s very different from them, and then they’re experiencing that feeling of feeling not like themselves because they’re literally pretending to be someone else by applying that other person’s advice. So I’m not I’m not all that interested in advice books. I love the stories and the individuals that sort of highlight it as an example. But the worst thing you could do in any of my books or Dorries or Stevens or anyone like that is to read one story and then go, Yeah, I want to do that. Like for a friend of a friend, a lot of people talk. One of the stories everybody’s resonating with is John Levy and his dinner parties, right? And this whole idea in line with the shared activities principle that he throws dinner parties where you can’t drop your name and title and what you do and you have to actually help cook dinner, You’re not there to be entertained.

David Burkus:
You’re there to sort of join a shared activity of cooking this meal together, that the point is the shared activity. The point doesn’t throw a dinner party where you ban people from sharing their first names, Right. So it’s less that that story is a great illustration of the science behind it. But the beauty of, I think, teaching people here’s the body of research and the scientific phenomenon is that you can then take that and use that in any way that you want as long as it’s in line with the science. So for me, I don’t throw dinner parties. I’m part of the Jiu-Jitsu community, which is itself a shared activity that satisfies all of those criteria. Nobody cares who you are and what you do for a job when you’re rolling on the mat, right? They don’t. So you don’t have that. It’s the same principle, very different activity. And that, I think, is better for most people so they can find their version of the thing that’s not them pretending to be someone else, it’s them doing something that’s authentic to them in line with the science. And that way they get the benefit.

Fei Wu:
Yeah, I love how daring some of the statements are. Like, I love how the way that you write about things or not lukewarm, like people either may agree or may disagree. And I wonder, like bass, I know you just released the book, but what are some of the comments and including kind of critics will kind of have been sharing with you? Like.

David Burkus:
Yeah, it’s too it’s kind of too soon to to know what the critics are saying. There’s only like I and I actually what is today we’re almost at that point where we’re outside of a month since launch. So I’ll start ignoring the Amazon reviews. But when when they’re coming in like in just dripping in, you do start to pay attention to them. And the only critical review we’ve gotten so far was a really weird one that basically said, Oh, the book is well researched and the stories are entertaining, etc. but the world shouldn’t work like that. It shouldn’t just be a matter of who, you know, etc. That’s and I think that I, I understand that belief. I agree with that belief. It probably shouldn’t be like that. But it is. You know, I also wish that the way that calorie consumption leads to weight gain didn’t work the way that it does. Right. It’d be so much better if you could eat twice the amount of food and not have the same. Saying it should work that way isn’t going to change the fact that, no, this is actually what we know. And so this is how I need to pick my diet. Right. Same thing with with networks. It’s not you probably should be that way, but no amount of screaming is going to change it and no amount of interventions are going to change it.

David Burkus:
And so the only thing to do is realize, all right, it is this way. And truthfully, I don’t necessarily think that’s bad news. Like, again, there was a there was a time when the working title was who, you know, And the whole idea was that it really is a matter of who you know, not just what you know, what you know is so important. Mind you, you can’t be an imbecile and succeed on who you know. But it still is what you know and also who you know. And that’s good news because you’re in control of both of those things. Right. The stories of that person that was just sort of born into this incredible network, etc., those are more rare than the stories of people figuring out that, okay, it’s a matter of the community that I’m a part of and the network that I’m a part of. So I need to be intentional and take this seriously. Those stories are actually more common and they see that who, you know is good news, and I think we all should. So that’s been the number one critique. But it’s not really it’s not really a fair critique. I agree with them. It shouldn’t work that way, but unfortunately it does. And so we can rail against it or we can learn how to use it for our benefit.

Fei Wu:
Absolutely. And like Seth Godin said, do not read. I mean, the one and two star reviews mean nothing at all. I mean, nobody has ever learned a thing to say. Oh, that.

David Burkus:
Was. Yeah, I mean, I know again, like I said, I normally don’t there’s only a currently at the time of this recording there’s only one. And so when it popped up, it was sort of like, Oh, all right, well let’s, let’s at least see. But eventually you get to the point where and they start to come in a lot. And I mean, I haven’t actually I check the number to see how we’re doing in terms of getting feedback from people. And that’s about the only thing that I’m looking at at this point now. But now we’re almost 30 days out from launch when we were a week out, you know, you get you get curious. But I also, by the way, the same sort of rules apply for the TED talks and that sort. So I don’t I don’t read the comments. It doesn’t nothing productive nothing productive comes from from critiques given inside the cloak of anonymity. Right. If you want to go on record and have a face to face conversation, tell me who you are and what your critique is. I’ll listen to that. I will. Because if you’re willing to sort of put your name to it, then it’s a valid sort of criticism. If you’re not, then like, I’m sorry, I don’t I don’t really count that as all that good. This is one of the few things that I love about Brené Brown is that she translates that that great quote from Theodore Roosevelt about it’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man, the man in the arena, quote, And she goes, Translation, If you’re not actually doing the work alongside me, I’m not interested in your feedback. And I think that’s kind of the key. It’s not ignore all criticism, but just know who it’s coming from.

Fei Wu:
Yeah, absolutely. I think we all need to learn something about that. Oh, my God, you are. You’re awesome. David. I’m so glad we connected, but thank you so much for your time. I know with young children, your schedule can be quite hectic and you have a lot of engagement. But I really appreciate that through a friend of a friend that you agree to be on the show.

David Burkus:
Oh, no, I’m happy to. I’m absolutely happy to. Thank you so much for for prepping for looking into parts of my my history that I you know, I love that.

Fei Wu:
So more to come. David, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

David Burkus:
No, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Fei Wu:
Hi there, It’s me again. I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode, and I hope you were able to learn a few things. If you drill what you heard, it will be hugely helpful if you could subscribe to the Feisworld podcast. It literally takes seconds if you’re on your mobile phone. Just search for Feisworld Podcast in the podcast app on iPhone or an Android app such as Podcast Addict and click subscribe. All new episodes will be delivered to you automatically. Thanks so much for your support.

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