Jewish Journal

Friends, connections, networks: Utilize all of them—they are one and the same.

by Nicole Behnam

October 28, 2011 | 6:06 pm

Nicole Behnam and Arnold Schwarzenegger

“You can’t make any one person your world. The trick is to take what each can give you and build a world from it.” Sarah Dessen

I was embarrassed to hold up my copy of “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi when I would read it in public. The title makes it sound like a self-help book—it’s a business book. And, frankly, I was reading… alone. But after the first few chapters, I made a realization, and ultimately, a decision that shaped the framework of my thoughts from then on: I wanted to meet as many people as possible, make as many friends as possible, and utilize as many connections as possible.

It may sound like a coldly-calculated attempt to establish a reliable network for myself. I can assure you, though, that it went far beyond that.

“Never mix business with pleasure,” they repeat like a mantra. But this mentality is wrong, and I refuse to live by it.

All of my friends are, naturally, my connections. They formulate my “network.” And the benefits of our friendships go far beyond reciprocal arrangements and favors. We exchange thoughts, stories, ideas—these are the components of friendship. We learn together; we grow together, and we can rely on each other when we need something. This is the benefit of having a “connection.”

I also enjoy network growth. For example, I will facilitate a relationship between Andrea and Diana if I know that they will benefit from each other as friends or as connections. Each of my friends is unique. Everybody has a different talent, a different opinion, and most importantly, a different set of life experiences from which the rest of us can learn.

Each friend is, figuratively, a resource; a set of chapters that comprise the book they are still writing, and the story they are telling. A story that you and I can learn from.

“Poverty isn’t only a lack of financial resources,” says Ferrazzi. “It is isolation from the kind of people that could help you make more of yourself.”

Sure, we can be independent, but we can’t do anything alone—we certainly can’t succeed alone. And even if we did, what good would it be if we couldn’t celebrate our achievements with our friends?

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When Nicole Behnam was 15, she joined the school newspaper and discovered that journalism was one of her passions. To take her passion one step further, she called Brentwood...

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