Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Another LinkedIn the Chain


Operation Inspiration

Those of you who are in business may be familiar with LinkedIn. It’s a social media platform geared towards networking, meaning helping people connect with others with whom they might wish to do business. The psychological term for this would be “gelt by association.”

Generally the way it works is that you connect with people, and then you can talk to them, they will see anything you share or post, and you can see each other’s contacts, thereby extending your business circle. In the Gemara, we have a similar concept of “chavrach chavra is lei, v’chavra d’chavrach chavra is lei.” This literally means, “Your friend has a friend, and your friend’s friend has a friend.” By connecting to others, you are able to reach many more people than are in your immediate circle, and I believe that’s the concept the LinkedIn platform is based on.

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I am not here to give a business lesson though. I am personally not very well-versed in many social media platforms, and this one is no exception. However, what I did notice is something I want to share with you. You see, when you first start with LinkedIn, and you perhaps give it access to your contact lists, it sees who you know and considers them contacts, or suggests connecting with them. Then, when they post something, and you’re close enough in the circle, you will see it.

This morning a former co-worker posted something about a new opportunity he’s working on. I used to work in the energy field, and what I realized is that many of the contacts I had from that job are working for other energy companies, even over a decade later.

It struck me that people tend to stick to what they know, and where they have had a certain amount of success. Salespeople keep selling energy, operations people still deal with energy operations, and collections people still work on collections for energy companies. It’s the same in other industries as well. Whatever “line” people are in, they tend to stay in it, even if their skills could be transplanted to other industries. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule of course, but it is common enough to have caught my attention and made me think.

We tend to find comfort in a certain field where we were making progress, and then gravitate towards that. We know it already and figure we have a certain amount of insight. Of course, other companies in the same field that are looking to hire, choose people with experience who don’t need to relearn the basics. That’s probably why my former co-workers are running their own energy businesses or working for other energy firms.

The thing is, we tend to do this in more aspects of our life. How many people still learn Chumash the way they did when they were in first grade, and the stories we read and recall now remain the ones we heard dramatized for little children?

Many people daven the same way they did when they first learned how (though that Benching song sticks with you and really rocks!) they still sing the same tunes, and possibly even make the same mispronunciations.

We likely interact and react to others the way we did when we were younger, and it’s all part of the emotional inertia we gravitate to. When something works, we don’t like to change it. When it’s not working as well as it used to, and perhaps should be changed, a part of us clings to that comfort zone and the safety of previous success, even when it’s time to move onward.

“Summertime,” as the song goes, “and the living is easy.” At this point in the year, people’s guards are down. We relax a bit. There’s no school, work is not as hectic perhaps, and we don’t worry about things as much. It’s a time of pleasantness and relaxation. It’s a time when it’s easy to be lulled into what’s comfortable. Well, some people live their entire lives like school is out.

But are these people seeing the success they might have if they’d switched jobs? What if they moved to another field entirely and learned of new strengths they didn’t know they had? What if we weren’t afraid to branch out and grow?

As Jews, we should be constantly looking to improve our behavior, our connection to Hashem, Torah and Mitzvos, and finding new ways to push beyond our comfort zones to excel in even more areas. Maybe we start to learn the meaning of the Tefilos we’ve been saying for years, or we become more outgoing and greet people we don’t know.

When we’ve seen success in one area, it doesn’t mean that that’s the only area to focus on. What it means is that we have the ability to be successful. Entrepreneurs bounce from business to business not because they are focused on the area they know, but because they are focused on honing their skills and leveraging their talents for ever greater reward.

We should all be in the business of reaching higher, stretching our limits, and finding new opportunities for success. We can utilize the network of Klal Yisrael and the endless resources it provides in the form of chizuk, knowledge, and camaraderie. Someone out there can help you learn, grow, and develop. Take advantage of that, because life is about finding success in many different areas; not just getting paid, but striking it rich, mining the deep stores of greatness we have inside.

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