Like any other collection, there will be the people you keep forever and guard zealously, the ones you will trade for others as circumstances dictate, the ones who can be bundled as introductions to still more people, and the ones who will be discarded at some point. Unlike most other collections, people may move among the four primary groups that each of us has:
- people who can help you and will
- people who could help you but shouldn't or won't
- people not in a position to help who are worth keeping
- people who, for whatever reason, have reached their shelf life
This group is the most likely to have a positive impact on you - it's the been-there-done-that group, the people you are most likely to ask for counsel or bounce ideas with, the ones you will likely turn to when dealing with challenges. This is the part of the collection that you nurture, the names that roll from your tongue when asked about influential people in your life, the ones you will thank after good things happen. This group also has the potential to grow over time; art collectors don't stop with one masterpiece and classic car people don't stop with one T-bird or one Mustang.
How you handle the second group is a conundrum and there are differing schools of thought: some believe this is a resource worth using; others say it's the worst idea imaginable. This group will have members whose assistance could be valuable, but access to that financial or intellectual capital can come at a price. It's not that they don't like you or don't want to succeed; in fact, people in this group likely want very much for you to succeed. But they keep out of it for two primary reasons: 1) they think you'll be better off in figuring out the answers for yourself and 2) they worry that if they offer advice and it ends badly, it will harm the relationship.
The third group is necessary for your sanity. For the most part, these are your friends - they mostly want the pleasure of your company - a night out, a ballgame, non-work things. They share your outside interests and outside interests are important. Not even the most committed person can work 25 hours a day, eight days a week; put enough tension in any system and it will eventually fail, often with catastrophic results. This group is your pressure valve release - you have cookouts, you watch ballgames, your kids and theirs may be friends, you share some war stories associated with work without any anticipated business outcome.
Then, there is the final group. No one's life is static: priorities change, there could be a falling out, or someone becomes too toxic to keep around. There is nothing you can do about this and there is nothing wrong with it, either; it's just part of life. When you graduate high school, you will not see 95% of your graduating class before your ten-year reunion. When you graduate college, you will never see 95% of that class the rest of your life. When you're young and single, most of your friends are young and single. When you are involved or married, so are most of the people around you. When you leave a company, you will also leave many of your colleagues behind except for the rare instances where certain people were part of the third group.
The status of your collection is a also a good barometer of where you. Is one group predominant? Has another been volatile or is it relatively stable? No collector ignores the occasional taking of inventory. Now if you'll excuse me, there are some potential new people I have to consider adding to my collection.