A fun game to play is “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” For those of you not familiar, you choose a Hollywood actor, find a movie or TV show that they appeared in, and then attempt to connect that actor through another actor or actors that appeared on screen with Kevin Bacon.
Example: Will Smith
- Will Smith and Jon Voight appeared in ENEMY OF THE STATE
- Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds appeared in DELIVERANCE
- Burt Reynolds and Demi Moore in STRIP TEASE
- Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon in A FEW GOOD MEN
In this example, Will Smith is within 4 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon (Jon Voight 3, Burt Reynolds 2, Demi Moore 1)
While this is can be a fun party game, it prompted me to think about all of the connections and relationships that I’ve made over the years and continue to make throughout my career. While I doubt I would be able to find myself within “six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon”, it is fascinating to see the various connections that emerge during any networking conversation.
I continue to be amazed at how many of us have crossed paths or have mutual acquaintances when I start talking with someone, particularly those in human resources. Whether it’s a mutual employer, education, personal interests, or even relatives; these connections help to often “break the ice” and help link and connect individuals through their mutual bonds and interests.
I guess I’m not too surprised with this phenomenon with those of us that work in human resources. In my past roles, I’ve interacted with so many people, both internally and externally, that the law of averages surely must play into the creation of these connections when we encountered so many people daily and throughout a career. But, why is connecting important to us? I think that it is human nature to feel connection and inclusion. Most people take comfort in developing a trusted network of fellow humans and I came up with a few observations as I thought about this topic.
We live in an ever-shrinking world?
I am old enough to remember when our telephone was mounted on the wall with a long curly cord while email and social media were something out of science fiction or the future. Connections were made in person, maybe by telephone, but with these limitations, your sphere of connection was limited to your school, neighborhood, and city. Once I purchased my first computer in college, I discovered online bulletin boards and found that I could connect with others in a new, broad way. For perspective, online connections were still a primitive process which would eventually develop over time.
Here is what my first computer looked like…
The “Mighty” Commodore 64 Personal Computer
Just a few, (OK, maybe more than a few) years later we now have so many incredible resources literally at our fingertips with tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, etc. that provide an immediate and instantaneous outlet to the world. (How many of you checked your social media feed while reading this blog post…be honest!) While this power provides the advantage of expanding our networks globally, technological connections can sometimes run the risk of being less personal, misinterpreted, or even abused. Still, technology has helped many of us (including those of you reading this) to connect so many of us in so many positive ways. I use technology to help initiate connections, but I guess I’m still old school in that I prefer a more personal connection, ideally face-to-face over a caffeinated or malt beverage!
Connections can help us overcome our differences
When we truly connect with others, and I mean developing actual open and trusting relationships, these connections can help us to overcome our differences. Some of my best friends are those that I may disagree with on a number of issues but learn so much from when we are able to engage in meaningful dialogue and sometimes even (gasp) debate. Over the years, I’ve learned so much, not just about others, but also about myself through the connections I’ve made. Engaging with others is a human trait that all of us strive for in one way or another. It is how we best learn and function as a society. My advice is to find connections with others that are not only different than you but may take you out of your comfort zone. You may start off finding some common ground but if the connection is “real” and one built on respect and trust, you will hopefully find the comfort in talking about what may be uncomfortable topics and by doing so, find that there is so much to gain from each other.
Quality vs. Quantity
For me when it comes to connections, I value quality over quantity. Throughout life, I’ve always treasured a few close friends that I could count on rather than having a long list of friends that may just “come and go” throughout your life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily have a “cap” on the number of connections or friends, but it shouldn’t be a contest. For example, one of the things I find quite humorous on LinkedIn are those that tout their number of connections in their profile, such as “500K first level connections.” Wow, congratulations…how many have you actually engaged with? How many can you actually count on and can count on you? My philosophy is to just be yourself and reach out in a positive way to everyone. Mutually positive connections will develop, likely not with everyone, but with many and those are the ones that truly count, not just your number of Twitter followers!
Try the “six degree” exercise yourself
OK, I’ve talked enough about connecting. I’m guessing that many of you out there that I haven’t met yet actually have some actual degree of connection with me. Particularly in this field of human resources, we are all connected to some extent as industry professionals, through SHRM, etc.
Next time you meet someone, try the “Six Degrees of Separation” and see how you may already be connected. NOTE: I don’t suggest starting off with the “Six Degrees of Separation from Steve Browne” since we all know that he has or will soon have connected with pretty much everyone in our field however, try the exercise and discover how small this world really is and how we are all connected through our professions, our interests, our passions, and in other ways we have yet to discover about ourselves and others. We may not all have a connection with Kevin Bacon, but speaking for myself, I and many of us do have a connection with mmm, bacon….
My official hometown bacon from Cudahy, Wisconsin
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship” – Dr. Brene’ Brown