Two nights ago I walked with a friend past an exclusive resort she told me had a stunning rooftop infinity pool overlooking the city (pictures here). Entrance required getting a minimum $400 room. Instead I talked to a few people, got invited up, and we enjoyed the pool and view as invited guests. (I still had to swim in my boxer shorts because how was I supposed to know I was going to end up there, but that only added to the fun.)
Recently I got invited last-minute to a friend-of-a-friend’s birthday party at a private club. There was no time to put my name on the list. Besides I’m a single guy, something clubs generally don’t like. Then I talked to the door guy, in front of a line full of people. After a few minutes chatting he pushed me in, saying “You’re cool, have a great time” before letting anyone else in off the line.
Years ago I feared walking to the front of a line and trying to get in. I feared doormen keeping me out. Now I’ve learned how to get past gatekeepers — from club doormen to admissions departments at universities. Developing social skills made a former challenge fun.
I used to think of gatekeepers as people trying to keep me out. Now I see them as wanting me as the right type of person in — they just have to meet me to learn I’m what the institution wants.
Bigger than getting past doors
Getting into business school was just another example of getting past a door. What is a job interview but communicating to the doorpeople that the place is better with you in it than not?
Life has a lot of gatekeepers, not just literal doorkeepers. But I’m still talking about a lot more than getting past them.
I’m talking about achieving anything of significance.
Most great achievements come from social skills, maybe all
Think of someone who achieved greatness. They probably did little as a person. Probably a group they led and perhaps formed did what they became known for.
Patton didn’t fight on World War II, his men did. Donald Trump doesn’t build buildings, he creates deals and assemble teams that do and put his name on the projects. Alexander the Great didn’t form an empire on his own. He led an army that did.
For your own life, the ability to attract friends and colleagues improves your life more than almost anything. It keeps you from growing lonely and depressed.
Physical strength and intelligence pale in comparison to the value of social skills, especially the ability to influence and motivate people.
You here now
If you have poor social skills, you can improve them. I suggest putting it near the top of your list of priorities.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book