Being Socially Connected

Perusing the internet one evening for a dose of inspiration, I came across a blog post focused on networking and relationships. The title grabbed my attention and the information offered was powerful. The inspiration was timely as I was in the midst of helping an American friend find a job in his new location - Brussels, Belgium. Some individuals were not being as open or helpful as I had expected which disappointed me.

I believe that one should help people as much as they can because when you do, good things usually come back to you. I have helped numerous individuals better their life and that goodwill has benefited me immensely especially when I needed assistance. The meaningful relationships I have developed over the years are a direct result of my relentless networking and connecting people. And I haven't always been helped in return and that is okay as it was and always will be my pleasure to improve a life.

When my childhood friend sent his email out asking for connections, I immediately put his request into action with everyone I knew who had a connection to Brussels. The strong networkers received my email and not long after came back with insight or people who could help. I was surprised that some people just came up with excuses not to help as they probably thought it would take up too much time.

Here's an email from a Swedish woman who actually knows my friend:

Regarding your friend I am afraid there is not very much I can do since all people I know in Brussels are working within EU. But if I would get in contact with anyone else or get to hear about anything - I will definitely think of him!

Gswede's email response was swift:

Regarding my friend, it is just a matter of connecting him with people who are connected in Brussels or know people who are connected in Brussels. Good chance to practice your networking skills not unlike how we connected you and your ex boyfriend. :)

The picture of helping became clear to her after our exchange and she offered to meet with my friend on her next visit to Brussels in September. To be fair, it's not the norm to network and help each other in Sweden so a gentle yet firm push is often necessary.

Below is an sms response (received in minutes) from a master networker who I have learned from. He is also Swedish yet atypical in many ways. I asked for his help with two USA friends who are visiting Stockholm in a few weeks and his kindness never ceases to amaze me!

G, connect me and your friends via email - and I'll arrange according to their wishes.

For those who have been uncomfortable with networking, I encourage you to do three things that should help:

1) Read my article on Networking - The link is

2) Read the aforementioned article which is below in its entirety. The author's (Keith Ferrazzi) blog can be found at

3) Reach outside of your comfort zone and help someone. You may be surprised at the benefits that arise from an an act of kindness. It may take some time occasionally but often a few emails will suffice.

For those who are good or strong networkers, you will find some powerful insight in Keith's blog post. A simple way we can all lend a helping hand is to pass the advice below to those who need it or would find it beneficial or interesting.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Practicing Social Arbitrage
(Keith Ferrazzi)

Real power comes from being indispensable. Indispensability comes from being a switchboard, parceling out as much information, contacts, and goodwill to as many people -- in as many different worlds -- as possible.

Engaging in this constant and open exchange of favors and intelligence is what I call social arbitrage. Think of well-executed social arbitrage as a sort of career karma. How much you give to the people you come into contact with determines how much you'll receive in return. In other words, if you want to make friends and get things done, you have to put yourself out to do things for other people -- things that require time, energy, and consideration.

Here's a few rules to become a master:

1) Think of social arbitrage as a game. When someone mentions a problem, try to think of solutions. The solutions come from my experience and knowledge, and my tool kit of friends and associates. Think: How can my network help? It's a sort of ongoing puzzle, matching up the right people and the right opportunities.

2) Just do it. Don't wait to be asked. People aren't used to looking for others for help, beyond a small circle, and usually either won't think of it or will be too polite to ask.

3) Don't limit yourself to one clique. Make a point of knowing as many people from as many different professions and social groups as possible. The ability to bridge different worlds, and even different people within the same profession, is a key attribute in managers who are paid better and promoted faster.

4) Become a knowledge broker. Knowledge is free -- it can be found in books, in articles, on the Internet, pretty much everywhere, and it's precious to everyone. Expertise will not only allow you to grow your connections, it helps you solve problems in situations where there's a gap in your network.

4) Carpe Diem. When you see a way that someone else in your network can help a friend, don't wait. Pick up the phone mid-conversation to make the introduction -- "I'm here with my friend so-and-so and they need x and may call you, if it's alright" - then give your friend the information so they can follow up as they choose. Not only have you made it completely comfortable for them to reach out, you've also pinged someone else in your network -- double score.

Successfully connecting with others is never about simply getting what you want. It's about getting what you want and making sure that people who are important to you get what they want first -- and having fun while doing it.

A gathering of friends before a big birthday and wedding celebration in southern Sweden - Gswede made some great contacts that night!

Embrace the Unknown

I mentioned to a friend recently that I wanted to be more proactive in "embracing the unknown". I was inspired to do so after hearing the author Deepak Chopra speak on television about how a life full of surprises or the unknown is one to be desired. Since I consistently look for ways to improve my life and respect the author, I decided to open myself up to his philosophy. I've done a good job of embracing the unknown on a macro level with my decade in NYC and my five years in Sweden although my day to day activities (micro level) have not always looked favorably upon surprises or outcomes that were not known to me. My first chance would come on a business trip.

I decided before my 4 day conference in Holland to be more open to the unknown in our meetings and training.

First, I listened intently to people's opinions even when they weren't so interesting. Listening is an invaluable skill and when we don't do it diligently, important information is often missed. I learned about different aspects of a colleague's personality as well as timely knowledge that I will utilize in my sales job - information that might have eluded me in previous meetings. My pledge to embrace listening paid off handsomely.

Second, I wholeheartedly embraced the value of role-play's in our company training. Not many people enjoy role-plays (acting a particular sales or business situation) as they open one up to insecurity and nervousness in front of peers. I have never feared role-plays although I've not engaged them fully in the past. I did this time and found myself in one of my most interesting and toughest role-plays. It was long and I had several attempts with the trainer. Since it was near the end of the day, I was exhausted yet did my best to stay in the moment. I gained some valuable knowledge about the way I impact people and how I can improve when faced with a weird or difficult buyer.

Finally, I felt refreshed and confident after the conference was over with my new attitude of embracing the unknown! I plan to carry it further into other parts of my life. Many of us like to be in control of our lives and therefore can miss out on the great mystery and beauty of turning a different corner.

For that next speech, prepare well and put your heart and soul in it. If offered to speak, always embrace the chance to teach or inspire the crowd!

Instead of dreading that overdue talk with a parent, sibling or spouse - embrace it and deal with whatever issues are on the table. Neglecting it will only add stress to your life.

For that next visit to the in-laws, embrace and look for the positives in the situation and leave the negativity at home. Most people have an interesting or good side to them. Look for it.

Go to a networking event or any event where you know few people and open up to at least one new friend.

Tell your spouse/partner how your REALLY feel about the relationship and leave no stone unturned. In the end, you will be better for it.

Try being a kid for an hour with your own children instead of the frustrated and unhappy parent. If you put yourself at their level, you may discover the pure joy and curiosity for life that kids often display. I love being around kids as it brings out the kid in me and that is a wonderful feeling.

Go on that blind date, eat dinner alone at a restaurant, try a new hobby, invite a new or old friend
for dinner, travel to a new culture, give more hugs, get in shape, etc, etc. It can be a little embrace or a big embrace. The more we open up our souls to the unknown, the richer our life experience will be.

Below are Deepak Chopra's words about this subject:

10. Embrace the unknown.

Over the years, you have formed likes and dislikes and learned to accept certain limits. None of this is the real you. You can’t force your authentic self to emerge all at once, however. Because it is painful to strip away the thick layers of illusion, you have to allow your soul to reveal itself in its own time.

Be assured that the unknown is awaiting you – an unknown that has nothing to do with the “I” you already know. The part of you that you know is the part that flickers out all too fast. When you feel a new impulse, an uplifting thought, an insight that you have never acted upon before, embrace the unknown. Cherish it as tenderly as a newborn baby. God lives in the unknown, and when you can embrace it fully, you will be free.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Apartments in the heart of the the city - Amsterdam, Holland

(It's Alright for a Season) But then It's Time to Go

I was instantly captivated by the words above when I first heard them in a song by Terrance Trent Darby. The impact was strong as I was a younger man at the time dealing with the ups/ downs and strange twists of relationships. Never one to waste time in a relationship that had no obvious short or long term future, Darby's words struck a chord with his season time-frame. Back then it made sense and I would recommend it in 2009.

The verses of my life are moving past
And so now the chorus I must hear
I've got to define my life and times
Before I can give you more than tears'
Cause sometimes
(It's alright for a season)
But then it's time to go--- Terrance Trent Darby's Seasons

In my opinion, there are 3 main reasons why a quality life partner/spouse remains elusive:

1) Not being ready - There are a multitude of reasons for this with most having to do with something or someone else controlling one's agenda - thus a promising relationship never has a chance to develop. Practicing the art of CYA (Controlling your Agenda) is an important element in finding the one you are looking for.

2) Being in a wasteful, low quality or misguided relationship that has existed for too long - It's hard to fathom how some let opportunity pass them by because they are afraid or unwilling to leave a relationship that has run its course; usually with little or no sign for a positive future. Opportunity seldom finds those who wallow in bad relations and are afraid to allow some good into their life.

3) Not being "in the game" - If one is single and wants to meet a potential partner, the majority of one's free time should be focused on meeting new people or finding that partner will be extremely difficult. One cannot effectively manage this by always hanging around the same friends or crowd. Be bold and venture out into new or unknown areas!

Point number 2 is my focus because if one is serious about finding a quality partner (not easy to do), it is imperative that one doesn't WASTE TIME in relationships that have no direction. It's important to experience life and a variety of relationships before one decides on a committed partner yet during that journey, being in a 5 year relationship that should have ended after 3- 6 months is a good way to let a potentially successful union slip right through one's hands.

When I have talked to people in aimless relationships, the excuses for staying ranged from "I love him or her" to "not wanting to be single" to "he or she may change" to "the break up will be tough on him or her" to "we have been together so long" - excuses made only to prolong what is typically inevitable, a break up. Why not nip that relationship in the bud and END it when you know there is no future?

I realize that relationships are complicated, intense and create sincere bonds - and that it's not easy to accomplish a desired exit particularly after a year or longer. That is why a season (or 3 month rule) is a good tool to utilize. I believe most people know after 3 months if a relationship has any real future or promise. They may not want to admit it to themselves but they know. If things are good after a season, continue and hopefully prosper. If not, move on so as to not become a victim of a multi-year relationship that should have been over in a season. It's vital for youth to consider this advice as life can be very challenging for them and to add a dysfunctional relationship into the mix only adds fuel to a twentysomething's fire.

A beautiful song called "Holding Back the Years" has a few poignant lines that speak volumes about what could happen if one toils in a relationship headed for the the perfect storm.

I've wasted all my tears
Wasted all those years
Nothing had the chance to be good
Nothing ever could, yea
I'll keep holding on--- Simply Red

Are you holding on?

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede and daughter during their vacation in the south of Sweden.

Approach Life with Love not Fear

Almost a decade ago, I was walking in New York City (NYC) with a good friend who was visiting me. As we were crossing the street, a stranger approached us looking (to me) both dangerous and scary. My friend met his gaze and welcomed his approach and talked to him as if he were any other friend. His calmness made the man and situation less tense and they exchanged some friendly words. The man was looking for money and was given a few dollars.

I saw another dimension to my friend that day as most would have avoided the stranger who was obviously troubled. Not only did he not avoid him but he interacted with love and compassion which instantly changed the look of the man and the tone of the moment. There was not an ounce of fear in my friend's being and I had lived in NYC long enough to know one must be careful of these types of situations. That moment had a profound impact on me.

What keeps us from approaching life with Love instead of Fear? Can you relate to any of these?

-- Fear of speaking in public - A real fear for many yet if you look at it as a chance to express yourself, deliver your passion or enlighten the listeners, the love you have inside will probably flow out and inspire the audience. The next time you have the opportunity to speak in front of a group, embrace it! You may stumble a few times but the more you do it, the better you will become.

-- Fear of improving or leaving a bad relationship - We all know people who have difficult relationships yet are fearful of doing anything about it. If you are one of those people, respect yourself and ACT! Don't just wallow in misery thinking that things will get better because they usually don't. Love yourself by attempting to improve the relationship or making the tough decision to end the union.

-- Fear of going after your passion - I love to write and started this blog less than two years ago. Why didn't I do it 5 years ago? I was probably fearful that it would take to much time or that the creative process could be overwhelming. That fear was misguided as my blog gives me inspiration on a weekly basis especially when I get heartfelt responses from my readers. My blog is one of my true passions and I love doing it! I implore you to go after your passion today even if it's only an hour a week.

-- Fear of a good relationship - I have seen both men and woman discount a potentially good partner because they thought they could find someone better. A close friend had a girlfriend that treated him well and was very loving yet he took that love for granted. He wanted someone prettier and more exciting. His dream girl came into his life and they were married quickly. The divorce was swift; less than 2 years after. How different his life might have been if he chose the first woman.

-- Fear of leaving the place where you spent your childhood - Why do so many remain in the area of their childhood for their entire lives? I can't imagine that some didn't have the desire to experience the beauty, love and excitement of the world beyond by living in a place far away or different from their childhood. Don't be fearful of our global world; there are endless and magnificent possibilities if you only have the courage to embrace them.

-- Fear of being social or meeting new people - In Sweden, social networking or embracing new people is not the norm. Because of this cultural shyness, many are missing out on the refreshing experience of meeting someone new. And it's not just Sweden as I have met people in America who stay in their "tiny bubble of friends" and rarely venture outside of it. Why are we afraid to embrace more of our brothers and sisters in our community or around the world? Try taking a few baby steps by bringing one new friend into your life each year; you may be surprised by the results. If you open up your heart to new people (particularly those different from you), your life will be enriched in ways you cannot even imagine.

-- Fear of not living up to a parents expectation - In my opinion, the best way to live a fun, worthwhile and quality life is to follow YOUR dreams and not be held down by what a parents thinks or expects. Some parents don't allow their children to fly away from the parental cocoon and figure out life on their own once they become adults. A good parent will guide a child gently while always keeping in mind the dreams and aspirations of the child. Bad parents tend to push a child too strongly to achieve, expect a child to follow in their footsteps even when they aren't interested, remind a child constantly that they are not good enough or place harsh expectations on a child - usually never considering what the child thinks.

Love yourself, be bold and stand up to a parent who wants you to live life in a certain way or not the way you want! If your parent(s) cannot respect your life choices, that is their loss. Remember, the words of James Taylor from his beautiful song Secret of Life, - "Since we're only here for a while, you might as well show some style". Don't let your style fade away due to a selfish parent.

The aforementioned friend had a challenging childhood along with his share of fears and difficult times in life although he overcame them and is one of the most loving people I know. Even though his father was a less than ideal parent, he displayed his love by going to visit him one summer and spending quality time together. His father died not long after. His loving and eloquent eulogy at his father's funeral inspired me and made me think about the day when I would have to give the same speech for my father. In 2005, my friend couldn't attend my father's funeral due to his grandfather's being the same day although his spirit was with me when I delivered a loving tribute to my father in front of a couple hundred people.

If you approach life with an open heart and mind, the love in your being will have no choice but to rise up and touch the people you meet and the situations you encounter. Having a mentor or close friend like the one I describe above is a tremendous resource because they lead by example and are always available to talk with and learn from. In addition, surrounding yourself with loving and gentle people will be invaluable as you journey through the joys and pains of life.

The times I have spent with my friend (including wonderful occasions on the golf course) have enriched my soul and made me a better and more loving person. My life wouldn't be the same without his continued presence in my life.

This friend is also a man of faith and it plays a central role in his life. Here's a quote from the bible that speaks volumes and gives comfort to those who believe:

Psalms 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

FDR said it best in his first inaugural address:

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance".

Happy Gswede Sunday!

A late July Celebration filled with Love in the south of Sweden - The couple's 40th birthday and 10 years of marriage.

Finding and Exploiting an Opponents Weakness

In June, I wrote about 1 hour of tennis with a Family Member (FM) in the summer of 2008; a close match that I barely won in large part due to my unique style of tennis irritation. The lesson learned from the article was to have an edge or work to achieve one when competing in tennis or sports in general. The link is below:

FM wasn't too happy about his loss in 2008 so I expected to be challenged rather quickly in 2009. As my vacation was coming to a close it seemed as though his redemption would never get the chance to manifest; something I was actually happy about. I thought FM would be tough to beat a second time since he know knew my game and had played several times since our last encounter. I had not touched a tennis racket since our match one year ago.

To my surprise, the challenge came the day before I was due to return to Stockholm. His offer caught me off-guard yet I hardly ever back down from a competition so it was "Game On". This was unfamiliar territory for me having never played a quality opponent twice that I had previously beaten. Despite my slight nervousness, I was ready. The warm-up was fifteen minutes.

FM sprinted to a powerful start winning the first game and setting a strong tone. I knew the match was going his way when I double faulted on my serve which rarely occurs. I surprisingly won the second game with a bit of luck but then lost two straight in quick fashion. FM had everything working for him and should have cruised to victory being up 3-1. I couldn't let him win that fourth game and take a commanding lead so I made a timely decision to incorporate a different style of play - attacking his forehand and rushing to the net for what I hoped would be easy points. My new style didn't work out as planned although it flustered him into numerous unforced errors and I tied the match at 3-3. I was happy to be back in the competition yet didn't find the weakness I was looking for.

FM was serving well at times yet his second serve was usually weak. In the seventh game, I returned his second serve deep in the corner to his backhand and attacked the net - time after time he had no answer for my strategy and I made him hit the ball out of bounds or directly at me for an easy point. I found the weakness and continued this style for the rest of the match. Massive exploitation of his weakness was the only thing on my mind and I was beginning to feel invincible as the games were getting easier and victory was close at hand. After being up 3-1, FM didn't win another game and I crushed him 6-3 by winning five straight games. We had to stop midway through the second set with me leading 4 -1.

It's extremely important in any competition to find and exploit an opponents weakness! Sometimes in can be difficult as I never had the chance to discover FM's weak spot last year since the match was grueling and very close. I had to use all my firepower just to claim victory. With this recent match, his weakness glared like Liberace and I punished it swiftly. FM sensed my excitement and said "You get excited when your winning". He was right, there are not many thrills like being on top and it was difficult to maintain the proper tennis composure!

In sports, always keep your eyes open and your focus on finding an opponents weakness. It may not be easy to locate but if you aren't searching, you may never find it. I will never forget when Michael Jordan (MJ) found and exploited a defensive weakness of the Portland Trailblazers in game 1 of the 1992 NBA finals - he made 6 three point shots in the first half and the Trailblazers were baffled and had no solutions for improving their hapless defense. MJ set the tone in that game and the Chicago Bulls went on to claim their second consecutive NBA championship.

Awareness, Finding and Exploiting. Remember those words when competing in any sport. It may be that slight edge you need to achieve what should be the most important goal in sports............WINNING!

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The lovely view from a rest stop on the Swedish Highway!