George Clooney, Up in the Air, Relationships and Success

Competence is one of the keys to success in my Common Sense Success System.  I discuss it in detail in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success; Your Success GPS; and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to succeed you need to develop four basic, but important competencies: 1) creating positive personal impact; 2) becoming a consistently high performer; 3) communication skills; and 4) relationship building.

You build strong relationships by doing three things.  1) Get to know yourself.  Use this self knowledge to better understand and communicate with others.  2) Give with no expectation of return.  3) Resolve conflict positively and with minimal disruption to your relationships.

Over the weekend, I saw the new George Clooney movie, Up in the Air.  George plays an outplacement consultant who has a speaking business in the side.  He uses a backpack as a metaphor in his speeches.  The first time we see him doing a speech in the movie, he is urging the audience to empty their backpacks of the unnecessary “things” in their lives.  “Not bad,” I thought.  “He’s suggesting that life is more than a race to gather possessions.”

The next time we see him doing a talk, he is urging the audience to empty their backpacks and lives of all of the relationships in them.  “No way” I thought.  “Relationships are the key to happiness and success.”  As it turns out, George lives his life by these rules – and while he has achieved some measure of business success, his life is lonely and unfulfilling.   

But that’s not the point.  Successful people build strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the people in their lives.  My best advice for relationship building is to “give with no expectation of anything in return.” 

I know that it seems that the world works on quid pro quo.  People expect it.  That’s why when you do something nice and unexpected for others and expect nothing in return, you’ll be on your way to building strong relationships with them.

Here’s an example.  In a blog post several months ago, I featured an article in Self Improvement Magazine by Tricia Molloy called “CRAVE Your Goals.”  I featured it because I thought Tricia presented and interesting and unique way of looking at goals that would be beneficial to my readers.  I also hoped that I would give Tricia some exposure to an audience she might not normally reach.  I didn’t know Tricia at the time.

The day after the post went up I got this comment from Tricia.

“Hi, Bud:

“Thanks for sharing my ‘CRAVE Your Goals!’ system with your readers. I enjoyed reading your comments about each step.

“Tristan’s comment about common sense not equaling common practice is so true. People often think these practices are too easy to work. They assume achieving goals always takes hard work and a bit of suffering. What I suggest is to start with the one CRAVE step that resonates the most–like cleaning out some clutter or using an affirmation–and that will give you the energy and clarity to try another step until all five steps become a habit.

“To more common sense!


Tricia and I are friends now – all because I took a little of my time to feature her article on my blog.  This was a win/win/win/win.  My readers benefited; Tricia benefited, Tristan, the publisher of Self Improvement Magazine benefited and I benefited — all because I took a little step and did something with no expectation of anything in return.  It’s karmic really, it seems that very often you get things back when you least expect to.

Strong relationships have no quid pro quo.  In a strong relationship, all parties do things willingly for one another, for the benefit of the individuals involved and for the benefit of the relationship.  It’s similar to the idea behind the hit movie “Pay it Forward.”

When you pay it forward in a relationship you are demonstrating that the relationship, and the other person or persons, is important to you.  You build good will by being the one who is willing to go first.  In my coaching, speaking and consulting business I have found that paying it forward has helped me build solid, long term relationships with clients.  Try it, it will work for you too.

I am a member of the Creating WE Institute, a group of people with multi disciplinary expertise who are working together to create new forms of engagement and innovation in the workplace.  Our book 42 Rules for Creating WE came out earlier this year.  I contributed three rules.  One is called “There is No Quid Pro Quo in WE.”  I believe this.  Giving with no expectation of return is the best way to build strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
Paying it forward is one way to make regular deposits into your various emotional bank accounts.  Interpersonally competent people make regular deposits to the emotional bank accounts they have with all of the people in their lives.  I have identified six ways you can make deposits into the emotional bank accounts you have with people in your life.

Make a sincere effort to understand other people.  Figure out what’s important to all of the key people in your life.  Make what’s important to them, important to you. 

Pay attention to the little things; because little things are big things in relationships.

Keep your commitments.  Every time you do what you say you’ll do, you’ll be making an emotional bank account deposit.  Every time you fail to keep your word, you’ll be making a withdrawal.

Be clear on what you want and expect from another person.  When you’re clear on what you want, it makes it easier for others to give it to you.  When you take the time to gain clarity on what others want, it’s easier for you to keep your commitments.  Be honest.  Make sure your words and actions are congruent.  Remember what Mark Twain has to say.  “Always tell the truth.  That way you don’t have to remember anything.”

Apologize when you make a withdrawal.  Often, a sincere apology will be enough of an emotional bank account deposit to offset the withdrawal you made.  However, this works only for the occasional withdrawal.  You can’t continually break your word or miss your commitments and think that an apology will keep your emotional bank account full.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people know that relationships are key to their success.  They understand themselves and use this self knowledge to better understand others.  They are competent at building relationships and resolving conflicts in a manner that enhances their relationships with the important people in their lives.  They pay it forward by giving without the expectation of return.  They make regular deposits to the emotional bank accounts they have with the important people in their life.  They keep their emotional bank account balances high.  In that way, they won’t be overdrawn when they have to make the occasional withdrawal.

That’s my take on relationship building and success.  What’s yours?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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