When you climb a mountain for 7 days, you have a lot of time alone with your thoughts.  I would think during my hikes all day long, while on our breaks looking at beautiful panoramas and especially in my tent at night when everything was quiet, and I could reflect on my day.  Because the mountain was an intense challenge for me physically, mentally and spiritually it caused me to dive deep into topics that I normally wouldn’t.  I wanted to share one of my biggest realizations about my life and community while I was climbing the mountain.

My realization was the difference between connectors and collectors.  Let me explain.  Throughout my career I’ve come across many different types of people, many of whom described themselves as connectors, which I appreciate.  There are many people who derive joy from networking and connecting with people.  But what I’ve realize over the last couple of years is that there are two very distinct types of connectors – and the difference can be hard to tell from the surface.

The first type of connector is not really a connector at all, they are collectors.  These people typically describe themselves as connectors because they love meeting new people and having those people know each other.  They create these huge networks of people around them that they take from company to company and role to role.  Now there’s nothing wrong with collectors, I just found myself frustrated with them and not realizing why.  You see the difference with collectors is that they believe they are connectors, but their primary motivation for connecting is to create a huge network of people who like them, and could potentially help them in the future in some way.  They are a collector of people, but the intrinsic motivation is self-fulfilling.  Now there’s nothing wrong with being a collector, because they can derive joy and fulfillment from knowing a lot of people.  You just don’t want to mistake them for connectors because their motivation is not outward, it’s inward.

True connectors on the other hand are intrinsically motivated to make connections that do not serve them, they serve others.  My great friend Aaron is a perfect example of a true connector.  He connects people expecting nothing in return, but finds true joy in, as he says, “good people need to know good people.”  A true connector isn’t making the connection for themselves, they are outwardly motivated to find ways to help others through connection.

My personal realization of the difference between collectors and connectors has helped me truly evaluate the people that I give my energy to.  Collectors are important to have in your network because they know a lot of people, but true connectors are the ones that can have a profound impact on your life and career.  It’s all about where the motivation comes from.

So, are you a collector or a connector?  Ask yourself these three questions and be honest with you answers and you might be surprised.

  1. When I meet someone new do I proactively think of good connections for them without expecting anything in return?
  2. When I reach back out to a connection that I haven’t talk to in a while are my motivations typically to share something new I’m doing or to truly learn about how I can help them?
  3. When I think about my network am I proud of the number of people I know and have connected with or proud of the depth of the relationships that I’ve developed?