Business books seek to create simple formulas for success. In the real world, formulas are often simple, but understanding them is much more difficult, and executing to them can be excruciating. Believe it or not, the simplest of formulas, on a mathematical level, is Einstein’s E=mc2. Alas, it is also the hardest for us to get our heads around, intellectually.
So, what if we were to create an equation that we could use to determine our relevance? In our work we have identified four key components to relevance, whether it is for a person or a corporate brand. We will be expanding on these notions in the months ahead and ultimately bring all these ideas together in our forthcoming book. Imperfect as it may be, we do think it begins to express the basic relationships between the elements of relevance.
(Au+M2+E)(Ac) = R
Au = Authenticity
M = Mastery
E = Empathy
Ac = Action
R = Relevance
Authenticity This is where relevance begins. Without it, you are left to being a poor imitation of someone else. The key to being authentic is to map your inner self to your outer self. Consider: are the gifts that are within you being translated to the gifts that you are bringing to others? Like our DNA, our unique self can create a unique relevance that is the ultimate vaccine against becoming a commodity. Being authentic also has the advantage of relieving you of having to wear other people’s masks. To quote Miss Piggy (who stole it from Oscar Wilde), “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Mastery Face it; if you hope to be relevant you must be good at what you do. The word “mastery” is an expression of greatness. It implies a command over the elements around you, a foreknowledge of what will happen based on a reverence for the lessons of the past. As you may have noticed, mastery in this equation is squared. The effect of mastery on your relevance is exponential.
Empathy So you’re authentic and you have mastery. How do you make those things relevant to others? Empathy. Empathy is like the docking station of relevance. It allows us to connect what we do with those who need it. When we don’t have empathy, it is like trying to open a safe by trying random numbers. While there are myriad definitions for empathy, we love the thought Atticus Finch expressed in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” that to know a person, you need to stand in their shoes. This ability to understand what people want and need allows us to bring them the right thing at the right time.
Action It is the great differentiator. While our ability to gain mastery, develop empathy and achieve authenticity can be limited by ability and fate, we do have control over action. Ultimately, there is no relevance without action. The first rule of canoeing on a river is, in order to steer your canoe, you must be going faster than the river and the only way to go faster than the river is to paddle hard. In the same way, if you are just going with the flow, you will never be able to choose where you go in this world. As you notice in the formula, all the other qualities are added together and then multiplied by action. Try putting imaginary numbers in for authenticity, mastery and empathy. No matter how high a number you come up with, if you multiply it by zero, your ultimate relevance is zero. It’s frightening how much action determines your relevance.
Relevance Do you matter? Or are you a mere commodity, interchangeable with other people, chosen for the sole reason that you are cheaper than everyone else? When you are relevant you matter in this world — you are needed. And the more relevant you are, the more you can make choices about what you do, where you do it and how much you can charge. This is not only the topic of this blog; it is the single goal. How can we be more relevant in our lives and in our work?
Where do we go from here? We all are familiar with E=mc2. But imagine how many years of work and abundance of genius would be required to understand what it really means and how it affects our world. The same is true for the relevance formula. Even if this formula were broadly true, it’s highly unlikely its application will change your life overnight. You need to work at it and, over time, it could make a difference. In the months ahead, we’ll explore the principles, tools and rewards that developing relevance can bring to our lives and careers.