I read a very interesting interview with Elon Musk the other day. Although the article was mainly focused on how he maintains peak efficiency with his busy personal schedule, it was an offhand comment stood out to me:
“Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.”
It’s a very strange pair of sentences, but great wisdom lies within them. All successful men and women derive their success from effective interaction with other people. A single human being is limited in their effective potential, but, when working in tandem with other people, humanity can accomplish tasks of unbounded scale and scope. The great people of yesterday and today accomplished their goals by effectively harnessing the creative abilities of the collective whole.
Networks of people give potency to our personal strengths, and supplement our personal weaknesses. The old adage “it’s all about who you know” is quite true, but it goes far beyond mere influence. It extends to all aspects of the human experience. A master architect can only create structures of surpassing beauty if they have a dynamic team of skilled craftsmen to collaborate with. It’s all about the effective utilization of a large network of skilled and passionate people.
As it is with creating opportunity, the same applies to receiving opportunities. The more people you know mean more people who might need your skills and abilities in the future. Giving is the reflection of receiving.
Obviously, to increase our chances of opportunities, and to have as diverse a team of people to work with as possible, we want to maintain a large personal network. The practical problem comes when we think about how human relationships are formed: communication. We only have 24 hours in a day, and we can’t possibly maintain the required number of quality human relationships solely through traditional, face to face communication.
This is where asynchronous communication comes in.
Because everyone is different, we live our lives with different schedules and different amounts of leisure time. Asynchronous communication allows us to maintain the essential bonds of friendship and dialog with the people that matter to us. An email can sit in my inbox for several hours unread, but a phone call or a coffee date cannot. By severing the real-time aspects of communication, we can maintain constant dialog with numerous people.
You know what else you can use to communicate asynchronously? Social media.
Almost all social media platforms have asynchronous communication as part of their structure. What’s more, it give us access to people that we have yet to meet in person. Social media, especially Twitter, connects us to people in a far more pragmatic way than traditional face to face meetings. We connect with people based on mutually held interests, not the convenience of location.
By no means am I bashing meeting and communicating face to face, but we can’t solely rely on proximity for opportunity in our modern world. The world is too vast to hold in one location, and our friends and partners in work may not always be in the same physical space as we are. With modern technology, we can work on projects with vast distances separating collaborators. We can even find qualified people to work with without ever having met them in person. Such opportunities cannot be ignored. There is simply too much to be gained from working in tandem with the rest of the world.
Mr. David Benson is a social media analyst and coffeephile. He currently lives in New York City and works as an analyst for Mashwork, a social media analytics company.