Social Tolerance and the Pursuit of Quality Time

If there are any extremes about my personality, it's my lack of social tolerance.  I don't mean about people's backgrounds or lifestyle choices--I mean personalities and actions.  If I don't want to be somewhere or don't want to be around someone, I have less tolerance than anyone I know for putting up with people I don't particularly care for. 

And that often means I tend to make bigger deals over things that other people don't see the harm in--particularly in relation to the NY tech community.  I'll call out people that I think are self-interested and I don't feel the need to "network" with anyone because I think they can do something for me.  I just try to spend time with people that I actually like, respect, find interesting--which is why I'm never surprised when people compliment me on who I know.  I get a lot of "Hey, I met so and so... they're really great..."  

Yeah... um... that's why I'm friends with them--not because I think they can do something for me.

I'd rather spend the majority of my time with people who have the right motivations and intentions and that I just really really like.  Life's just too short and there's not enough time to feel overly socially obligated to be "friends" with everyone--even the people you feel so-so about.

Contrast my near unwillingness to bite the networking bullet with people I don't care for with my willingness to help--to bend over backwards for--the people I do care about, and you'll get what I imagine to be very contrasting opinions of me depending on who you ask.  Just about everyday, I get at least one instance of someone thanking me for my help or for being nice, and at least one instance of someone saying I'm being mean, grouchy, or unfriendly.  Time and time again, I've been willing to help out entrepreneurs who take the time to actually get to know me, build a relationship, or whose efforts I actually have some relevant knowledge about.

This is how I want it.  It's because I agree with Ayn Rand when she said, "[T]he person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind. He expects nothing of men, so no form of depravity can outrage him." 

I really love a good number of amazing people in my life, but love and admiration has no meaning if you really think everyone is great in their own way.  Sorry, some people are just taking up space--a net negative on their environment.  Some are dangerous, and others are just distractions and time sinks.  Because of this, I very actively seek out great people to spend my time with, and actively weed out, call out, and refuse to engage with those that add little, no, or negative value.

It's like the a long/short hedge fund.  If you really want to go long on some people--build relationships, engage, spend more time on--then why won't people go short, and cut people off.

Too many of my friends get caught up with people they'd rather avoid, but don't want to make waves or cause trouble.  We're so obsessed with trying not to hurt people's feelings that we're willing to spend disproportionate amounts of time on people that drag us down or just sideways, but definitely not boost us up.  This happens in relationships all the time...and we think there's no cost, until we realize all of the other people, like family, and activities, that we could have otherwise spent time on instead of someone that doesn't make your life more fantastic with every second you spend with them.  It's like TechCrunch.  How many people feel like they have to read it, even though they don't have the least bit of respect for the behavior of the guy behind it? 

Social media magnifies the cumulative effect of this exponentially.  If you're following over 500 people on Twitter, how many amazing people are you not paying enough attention too?  The incremental effort it takes to pay attention to the least additive 20% of your network could add up to a weekly or monthly extra phonecall or personal email to the most amazing people in your life--and that could make a huge difference in your most important relationships. 

If you're running groups and communities, focusing on aggregate numbers versus quality, signal to noise, or engagement can bring down the whole network.  You don't need 100 people to show up to your Meetup--20 fantastic and extremely relevant people will do.  Part of the equation here that makes this work is that word of mouth has never been so fast and so cheap, so what you really want is a strong initial signal, because it will indeed get magnified, and received by right folks in a hyperconnected world. 

2009 is going to need to be a year of focus for people--to spend their limited resources on the things that matter most of them.  I hope that people realize that their time and emotions are some of the most precious resources they have, and that they become a little more discerning about how they spend them.